Dental informatics is an emerging discipline applying computer and information science to dental practice, research, education, and management. To date, the dental informatics research literature has not been comprehensively reviewed. This study reports an initial analysis of the dental informatics literature. We developed an initial, comprehensive retrieval strategy to locate dental informatics citations in MEDLINE (1966-April 2003), including three concepts: dentistry, computers, and research. After refinement of the search, we manually classified the final set into four categories: (1) non-dental; (2) dental, but neither dental informatics nor IT-related; (3) dental informatics; and (4) IT in dentistry. We analyzed informatics and IT-related citations regarding their distribution across journals, growth rate, the number of authors and their publication frequency, and content as expressed by Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). The final set of citations (n = 3872) consisted of: 12% non-dental articles; 59% dental, but not informatics- or IT-related articles; 16% informatics-related articles; and 13% IT-related articles. Informatics-related citations appeared in 176 journals, and IT-related citations in 206 journals. Approximately 50 papers are currently published in both categories yearly. While a great many authors have contributed to this literature, very few have published more than three papers. Main topics of articles included "Imaging and Image Processing", "Computer-aided Diagnosis and Therapy", "Computer-aided Instruction", and "Other". The dental informatics literature is small, but growing. Imaging and image processing predominate as research topics.
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