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Forensics data standard set

For more than three years, the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics has worked to establish a national forensics data standard.

Those efforts paid off last month when the American National Standards Institute approved ANSI/ADA Specification No. 1058 for Forensic Dental Data Set as an American National Standard. Designed to assist dentists and dental professionals in establishing positive identification of human remains, the new standard will standardize how forensic dental data is handled and ultimately gives dentists a uniform electronic format to transfer that data.

The new specification also standardizes the submission of supporting documentation from the dentist or dentists who treated the patient. Dentists can directly submit radiographs, charts and progress notes to the forensic odontologist or through a clearinghouse.

The goal of the new standard was not to define the extent of information collected but to develop uniform nomenclature for the description of forensic dental data and to define a standardized set of common terms.

“The important thing is that it keeps everyone on the same page,” said Dr. Kenneth Aschheim, chair, SCDI Joint Working Group 10.12 on Forensic Odontology Informatics, and assistant chief forensic odontologist for New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, as well as an associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Ultimately, the goal is to create a standardized electronic format to transfer this data.”

Dr. Aschheim described the new standard as similar to a Current Dental Terminology for Forensic Dentistry. “Sometimes we receive charts that are difficult to interpret,” he said. “Dentists are using different names for restorations, nonstandard abbreviations and nonspecific descriptors. The committee set out to unify these descriptors because as we move toward electronic records, any data that cannot be coded cannot be transferred.”

The new standard also lends itself to use by electronic dental databases, such as ones used by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to assist in identifying missing people using dental records.

The Forensic Dental Data Set will consist of an Antemortem Data set of six components: Familial Data, Dental History Data, Tooth Data, Mouth Data, Visual Image Data and Radiographic Image Data. The Postmortem Data Set consists of four components: Tooth Data, Mouth Data, Visual Image Data and Radiographic Image Data.

Dr. Aschheim credited the chairs of the working group’s subcommittees: Dr. Lawrence Dobrin, Familial and Dental History; Dr. Harry Zohn and Dr. Sheila Dashkow, Mouth; Dr. Richard Weledniger, Radiographic; and Dr. Scott Benjamin, Image; and Winnie Furnari, RDH, committee secretary, for their diligent effort in getting the standard formulated.

Dr. Robert Barsley, American Board of Forensic Odontology; Dr. Thomas David, American Academy of Forensic Sciences; Dr. Ken Hermsen, American Society of Forensic Odontology; and numerous private, federal, state and local agencies ensured that the forensic community’s needs were met in the standard.

When asked about the future, Dr. Aschheim stated there is still work to be done.

“The next step is for the ADA to complete the requirements for an electronic dental health record. When that is finalized there will be a single unified standard for the transfer of dental data and it will include all of the information necessary to aid the forensic odontologist.”

If you are interested in being a part of the ADA SCDI Joint Working Group 10.12 on Forensic Odontology Informatics, contact Paul Bralower at Ext. 4129 or bralowerp@ada.org.

To purchase ANSI/ADA Specification No. 1058, contact the ADA at Ext. 2506 or standards@ada.org.