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For Authors Continuing Education
Vol. 70, No. 4
ISSN: 1488-2159
April 2004


A Closer Look at Diagnosis in Clinical Dental Practice: Part 1. Reliability, Validity, Specificity and Sensitivity of Diagnostic Procedures


• Iain A. Pretty, BDS(Hons), MSc, PhD •
• Gerardo Maupomé, PhD •

A b s t r a c t

Dentists are involved in diagnosing disease in every aspect of their clinical practice. A range of tests, systems, guides and equipment — which can be generally referred to as diagnostic procedures — are available to aid in diagnostic decision making. In this era of evidence-based dentistry, and given the increasing demand for diagnostic accuracy and properly targeted health care, it is important to assess the value of such diagnostic procedures. Doing so allows dentists to weight appropriately the information these procedures supply, to purchase new equipment if it proves more reliable than existing equipment or even to discard a commonly used procedure if it is shown to be unreliable.

This article, the first in a 6-part series, defines several concepts used to express the usefulness of diagnostic procedures, including reliability and validity, and describes some of their operating characteristics (statistical measures of performance), in particular, specificity and sensitivity. Subsequent articles in the series will discuss the value of diagnostic procedures used in daily dental practice and will compare today's most innovative procedures with established methods.


MeSH Key Words: decision support techniques; predictive value of tests; risk assessment/methods
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