How to Become a Dental Informaticist
What is dental informatics?
Dental informatics schools train students in the use of informatics to advance dental research and provide support to the clinical practice of dentistry. Health information administrators who work in the field of dental informatics tackle research questions dealing with a range of topics that directly impact the clinical work that dentists perform. This can include research related to oral cancer and its effects on dental health, to the incidence of dental and oral infection following dental procedures to the effectiveness of different methods of replacing or regenerating lost dental tissue. Dental informaticists use a variety of information tools and computer applications, ranging from biological databases to statistical algorithms and software programs to neural networks to accomplish their research and provide invaluable information and data analysis to practicing dentists and dental specialists.
The field of dental informatics draws upon principles taken from computer science, dental medicine, and cognitive science. A career in dental informatics requires expertise in computer technology and information science, as well as a thorough knowledge of dentistry and related health issues and medical and dental terminology. Dental informaticists must also be familiar with digital imaging methods and electronic record keeping. They use their skills and knowledge base to provide essential support for clinical decision making in the context of dental treatment and diagnosis.
How does one become a dental informaticist?
Health information administrators who specialize in dental informatics often already have a degree in dentistry or a specialized dental field before pursuing their degree in health information management. A graduate degree in general health informatics, combined with previous training or work experience in the dental field, is usually a sufficient credential for those who wish to become dental informaticists. However, dental informatics schools and graduate programs are becoming more common. The first dental informatics degree programs were instituted in 1997. More and more schools are now awarding degrees in dental informatics at all levels from baccalaureate degrees to advanced graduate degrees.
Most dental informatics degree programs last three years. In addition, aspiring dental informaticists have the option of pursuing post-graduate training programs for two or three years following the receipt of their dental informatics or health informatics degree. As the field of dental informatics continues to grow, more and more professional resources and support systems become available to health information administrators who choose to specialize in this emerging field. The AMIA (American Medical Informatics Association) now has a special working group devoted solely to dental informatics and the issues facing professionals who work in this area. Most health information administrators who specialize in dental informatics work in private dental practices or in dentistry departments at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare institutions.
What kind of salary does a dental informaticist make?
Dental informatics is a new and highly specialized field. The demand for health information administrators who specialize in dental informatics is growing much more quickly than the number of trained dental informaticists available in the labor market. As a result, those who work in the field of dental informatics are very well compensated. Starting salaries in the field of dental informatics average around $80,000 a year, and the average annual salary nationwide for a dental informaticist is around $105,000 a year, almost fifty percent higher than the average nationwide salary for all occupations.