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Newly approved standard enables electronic capture of patient diagnoses

December 07, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

An ADA-developed diagnostic code set designed to capture dental patient information that can be used across electronic health record platforms has been approved as a national standard.

The ADA received approval in November from the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, for ANSI/ADA Standard No. 2000 for the development of the Systemized Nomenclature of Dentistry, or SNODENT.

Use of this diagnostic code set is intended to help dentists record finely detailed oral health data using standardized terminology that can transcend geography, platforms and care settings. The data is recorded using an identifier and a description, such as "dental caries," under which are descriptions that allow recording of different types of clinical information, e.g., "enamel caries (disorder)" or "dental caries extending into dentin (disorder)."

Developers of the standard say the benefits of using SNODENT include the possibility of better communication among dentists and other health care providers, improved patient care through evidence-based practices and enhanced data collection to evaluate oral care outcomes.

"There is increasing demand from government, educators, researchers and third parties to relate treatments provided to diagnosis," said Dr. Ronald Riggins, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs. "Until now, there has not been a diagnostic or descriptive code set created by dentists for dentists. SNODENT is this code set and was created by the ADA."

SNODENT is also valuable because it complements the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature, the standard code set for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, according to Dr. Riggins.

"These taxonomies allow dentists to document the findings and disorders of a patient's oral health as well as document the procedures performed based on the diagnosis," Dr. Riggins said. "Together, SNODENT and the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature serve as a comprehensive foundation for the future needs of oral health because of their depth, breadth and specific focus on dentistry."

Like all ADA-developed dental standards, volunteers from dentistry, industry, academia and government worked together to build the SNODENT standard with the guidance of ADA staff.

Two SNODENT subsets were submitted along with SNODENT through the ADA's American National Standards Institute-accredited standards development process: the SNO-DDS (Dental Diagnostic System) subset and the SNO-DDS General Dentistry, a subset developed for general dentistry.

To develop the two subsets, SNODENT was harmonized with the Dental Diagnostic System, formerly known as the EZCodes, a diagnostic dental code set with a collection of approximately 1,500 dental terms. The smaller SNO-DDS General Dentistry subset provides an easily implemented code set that satisfies the majority of needs for general dentistry.

SNODENT has already been implemented in live electronic dental record systems in the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and the New York University College of Dentistry. Other universities are expected to adopt it over the next few years.

The ADA owns, maintains and distributes SNODENT and it is available under license at no cost for noncommercial use. For more information on obtaining a license to use SNODENT, send a request to SNODENT@ada.org.

For more information about the ADA's development of standards or to get involved in their development, visit ADA.org/dentalstandards, or email standards@ada.org.