The University of New Mexico’s (UNM) Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center (HSLIC) and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology were recently awarded more than $400,000 in federal grant money from the National Library of Medicine to develop a de-identified, searchable, Web-based version of a collection of orthodontic patient materials.

The physical collection is an extremely valuable set of dental casts, intraoral photographs, x-rays, and patient records from local orthodontist James Economides, according to Philip Kroth, associate director for Health Sciences Informatics Program Development and assistant professor in HSLIC; and Heather Edgar, curator of Human Osteology for the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and research assistant professor of Anthropology.

The collection includes photos, x-rays, orthodontic diagnoses, dental casts, and basic patient demographic information from a diverse population. Students and others will be able to search cases electronically to view the effects of various orthodontic treatments on patients of various ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities.

"Generally, orthodontists don’t have access to such a varied ethnic population in their training,” asserts Kroth, the co-principal investigator for the grant. "This Web-based tool will be valuable in education and research for students, practicing orthodontists, and dentists.”

"It also will be an incredible resource for anthropologists studying variation in craniofacial growth, development and form, dental morphology and development, and many other fields," adds Edgar, principal investigator for the grant.

Summers Kalishman from the UNM Department of Family and Community Medicine and Edward Harris, anthropologist and professor at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center’s Department of Orthodontics, will lead the project evaluation.

The database will be pilot-tested as an educational tool at the University of Tennessee by orthodontic students and faculty. Formalized feedback from these groups will be used to refine the design of the collection’s search tools, which will be eventually made available for free use by anyone with Internet access.

For more information on “The Impact of an Ethnically Diverse, Web-Based Case File in Orthodontic Education” grant, call (505) 272-3679.