From the ADA News:

SNODENT is a vocabulary designed for use in the electronic health records environment. Any dentist who uses electronic health records or who plans to in the future should be aware the use of diagnostic codes is on the horizon. SNODENT will be an important component within certified Electronic Health Records Systems

via Two dental schools adopt SNODENT.


SNODENT stands for Systematized Nomenclature of Dentistry. What it is intended to do is to establish standard diagnostic criteria and definitions and then create a standard digital format that can be used by everybody as part of a digital electronic medical / dental record. The concept is great, but.

As a general rule dentist have not been diligent in making and recording diagnosis. We often conflate the treatment and the diagnosis. For example we will say the diagnosis is a crown. Of course that is not correct the crown is a treatment the diagnosis might be a broken or decayed tooth. One of the reasons we do this (besides habit) is that we have codes for treatments but not for diagnosis.

The proper way to do it is to make and record a diagnosis and then to prescribe a treatment. The SNODENT system is designed to be the recording system for diagnosis – which is good – but breaks down when so few of us make formal diagnosis.

The second problem is the steps involved. Not only do we have to develop a new habit that is making a specific diagnosis we have to fit it to a SNODENT code and then enter the code in the record. And we have to do this for every treatment. Even a prophy technically needs a diagnosis.

One of the great benefits of standard diagnostic codes is that they can be used for research. Which diseases are most common? Which treatments are most effective? In other words SNODENT codes are needed to do effective evidence based analysis.

It is hard to argue with the concept of evidence based treatment planning as a concept. However in reality it has been used in medicine to limit treatment options, reduce reimbursements and stifle creativity and innovation.

Never the less the concept is excellent and dentists need to do a better job of making and recording standard diagnosis.


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