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Vol. 68, No. 7
ISSN: 1488-2159
July / August 2002


Diagnostic Codes in Dentistry — Definition, Utility and Developments to Date


• James L. Leake, DDS, DDPH, MSc, FRCD(C) •

A b s t r a c t

Diagnostic codes are computer-readable descriptors of patients' conditions contained in computerized patient records. The codes uniquely identify the diagnoses or conditions identified at initial or follow-up examinations that are otherwise written in English or French on the patient chart. Dental diagnostic codes would allow dentists to access information on the types and range of conditions they encounter in their practices, enhance patient communication, track clinical outcomes and monitor best practices. For the profession, system-wide use of the codes could provide information helpful in understanding the oral health of Canadians, demonstrate improvements in oral health, track best practices system-wide, and identify and monitor the progress of high-need groups in Canada. Different systems of diagnostic codes have been implemented by program managers in Germany, the United Kingdom and North America. In Toronto, the former North York Community Dental Services developed and implemented a system that follows the logic used by the Canadian Dental Association for its procedure codes. The American Dental Association is now preparing for the release of SNODENT codes. The addition of diagnostic codes to the service codes already contained in computerized patient records could allow easier analysis of the rich evidence available on the oral health and oral health care of Canadians, thereby enhancing our ability to continuously improve patient care.


MeSH Key Words: dental records; management information services; tooth disease/classification
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