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Informatics Is For Dentistry, Too

Informatics isn't limited to medical care. The use of IT is also being applied in dentistry. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine recently formed the Center for Dental Informatics, making the school one of a few in the United States to focus on the use of IT in dentistry. Leading the program is associate professor Titus Schleyer and assistant professor Heiko Spallek.

Dental informatics is the application of computer and information sciences to improve dental practice, research, education, and management, according to a paper published by Schleyer and Spallek in the May 2001 issue of the "Journal of the American Dental Association." Schleyer and Spallek both came to the University of Pittsburgh from Temple University in Philadelphia, where they helped establish the nation's first department of dental informatics in 1996.

"Dental informatics has the potential to help address many longstanding problems in dentistry, from simply reducing overhead in our daily clinical practices to improving patient care," Spallek says. "Only through growing research will we be able to realize this potential."

The Center for Dental Informatics will primarily focus on research and education, enabling the school to establish a presence in academic dental informatics. Projects will build on Schleyer and Spallek's research in computer-based oral-health records, information needs in dentistry, dental Internet applications, and educational software.

In addition to Schleyer and Spallek's work, the center will integrate informatics concepts and applications in areas such as genomics, oral cancer, bone biology, and public health.

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