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March 7, 2002

Dental informatics center set up

Pitt's School of Dental Medicine has formed the Center for Dental Informatics, making the school one of a few in the United States to focus on the use of information technology in the field of dentistry.

Leading the program will be dental medicine faculty members Titus Schleyer, associate professor, and Heiko Spallek, assistant professor. Both come to Pitt from Temple University, where they helped to establish the nation's first department of dental informatics in 1996.

Dental informatics is the application of computer and information sciences to improve dental practice, research, education and management.

"Dental informatics is derived from medical informatics, which has established itself firmly as an academic discipline over the past several decades," said Schleyer. "In the future we hope to be able to develop similar programs and resources for the dental community. Our partnership with the Center for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh will be a key point of leverage in this effort."

The new center will focus primarily on research and education, enabling the school to establish a presence in academic dental informatics.

"The field has the potential to help address many long-standing problems in dentistry, from simply reducing overhead in our daily clinical practices to improving patient care," said Spallek.

Center projects will build on the research of Schleyer and Spallek in computer-based oral health records, information needs in dentistry, controlled vocabularies, dental Internet applications and educational software. One of their projects will be to implement a computer-based oral health record — the dental part of a patient's electronic health record.

Schleyer and Spallek are recipients of one of the first National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) training grants in dental informatics and have trained several dental informaticians.

In addition to the work of Schleyer and Spallek, the Center for Dental Informatics will integrate informatics concepts and applications in areas such as genomics, oral cancer, bone biology and public health. The center will house a NIDCR-funded training program in dental informatics.

For more information, visit the center's web site at

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