Dental Informatics


This is a required information technology course in our University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine predoctoral program. The course equips students with the information technology skills that are applicable throughout their education and professional life. Course content is in part based on the Competencies for Dental Informatics developed by the Center. Please feel free to use any material for educational purposes with proper attribution.

Course #: CDENT 5141 Year: First Semester: Fall
Director: Dr. Heiko Spallek   Credits: 1
Faculty: Dr. Heiko Spallek, Dr. Titus Schleyer, John Siegel, Dr. Ali Seyedain, Thankam Thyvalikakath
Offered by: Center for Dental Informatics


Welcome to Dental Informatics

Hi everybody,

Welcome to the course Dental Informatics! This course is intended to provide you with foundational knowledge about how to use information technology throughout your studies and professional life. While the degree of computer literacy for incoming students is gradually rising, the knowledge about how to apply these skills as a dental professional is far from universal. This course attempts to correct this discrepancy, thereby enabling you to use information technology productively throughout your studies and your entire career. We will explore topics related to searching the Web for high-quality medical information, using computers in dental practice, taking dental images using digital SLRs and intraoral cameras, as well as exploring how to avoid legal problems when sending emails to patients.

The various assignments throughout the course allow you to apply newly acquired skills right away to stimulate active learning and eliminate the need to memorize facts for the sake of passing a test. The online format of the course (only the library session will use a face-to-face, group-based format) allows you to access the course information whenever needed.

Please start by reviewing the Syllabus (italic font means that it is a link in your course menu to the left) and then turn to the Learning Modules. Please use the Discussion Board for any general course-related logistical questions and the various specific communication tools inside each Learning Module for any topic-specific assignment submissions and questions. To get acquainted with the faculty members teaching this course, check out the Faculty Information course menu item.

I hope you will learn a lot!

Heiko Spallek, DMD, Ph.D.:
Asst. Professor, Center for Dental Informatics
School of Dental Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
3501 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Syllabus - Dental Informatics

Course Goals
This course is intended to teach dental informatics concepts that are widely applicable throughout your education and professional life. While the degree of computer literacy for incoming students is gradually rising, many do not know much about using computers in a professional context. For instance, a 2006 study found that nearly half of 308 participating college-age students enrolled in courses at the College of Health Sciences at a Midwestern university had trouble discriminating between primary and secondary sources and that two thirds of them were unable to understand or apply boolean operators when searching (Ivanitskaya 2006). This course attempts to help you learn how to best use computers for your future profession, thereby enabling you to use information technology productively throughout your studies and career. The course is not an introduction to the basics of computing, such as information representation; operating systems; computer hardware, software and networking systems; backups and computer security. We assume that you are either familiar with these areas or can acquire the necessary knowledge on your own. You will have opportunities to immediately apply your newly acquired skills to various assignments throughout the course so that you can critically evaluate what you have learned. The online format of the course (only the library session will use a face-to-face, group-based format) will allow you to access information resources whenever you need them - facilitating learning-on-demand.

The main content areas of the course are:

  1. Accessing the Scientific Literature
  2. Dental Informatics Concepts
  3. Searching the Internet and Assessing Information Quality
  4. Clinical Computer Use in Dentistry
  5. Practice Management Systems
  6. Electronic Communication for Professional Use
  7. Integration of New Technologies in the Dental Office
  8. Dental Digital Photography
  9. Digital Imaging, Image Manipulation and Ethics
  10. Intraoral Cameras

"A scuba diving instructor told me long ago that the essential characteristic of a good diver is comfort in the water. I'd suggest that a graduate who is at ease with technology can learn specifics on the job where necessary."

Kate Coffield, when referring to undergraduate technology proficiency on the UWEBD mailing list

Related SDM Competencies
Foundational Knowledge
"The First Professional graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine must be competent to:
1.3 Access and evaluate the scientific literature, using information technology resources, to support lifelong learning and evidence-based decisions about patient care."
5.3 Acquire practice management skills applicable to contemporary practice to include the proper use of information technology resources.

(from Competency Document, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, approved by faculty vote on November 12, 2008)

Course Objectives

Evaluation Method(s)

  1. Assignments

    All assignments are geared towards strengthening your foundational knowledge of the course content and its meaningful application in the clinic. Each assignment will be evaluated and graded based on content, format and timeliness of submission. Because this course also covers the principles of professional use of electronic communication, special emphasis will be made towards proper use of email.

  2. Final Test

    The final exam consists of a multiple-choice comprehensive exam that will test students' knowledge of the concepts and methods learned throughout the course.

Educational Resources

Test Representatives
In order to minimize confusion and facilitate the examination process, class-elected test representatives will serve as the designated liaison between their respective class and course director. Course directors reserve the right to meet only with class-elected test representatives regarding challenges to quiz and test items. Course directors and course faculty will be available by appointment to discuss course/examination content with individual students.

Examination Schedule
The policy of the School of Dental Medicine is that students are expected to be present for all course examinations as scheduled. Any proposed alterations to the established course examination schedule must be submitted to the Office of Education prior to approval. Course Directors retain the right to make exceptions for individual students based on extenuating circumstances.

Academic Accommodation Statement