Open Dental

Open Dental
open dental Logo
Screenshot of open dental
Practice Management Software
Original author(s) Dr. Jordan Sparks
Stable release 7.8 / April 22, 2011; 6 months ago (2011-04-22)
Preview release 7.1(Beta) / July 29, 2010; 14 months ago (2010-07-29)
Written in C#
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, cross-platform
Type Practice Management Software
License GNU General Public License

Open Dental, previously known as Free Dental, is dual licensed Practice Management Software available under both a commercial license and the GNU General Public License.[1]. It is written in the C# programming language compatible with Microsoft .NET Framework and was first released in 2003. Current versions of the software require Microsoft Windows. Earlier versions of the software had supported other operating systems, but Linux support has been dropped.[2] The full function version is only available under the commercial license because it includes royalty bearing, licensed materials from the American Dental Association (ADA), the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT).

Open Dental is owned and sponsored by Open Dental Software, Inc., which is incorporated in the State of Oregon in the United States of America.[3] However, since anyone has the freedom to develop and support Open Dental, in a sense it belongs to the entire dental community. The features and accessibility of Open Dental make it a considerable option for use in dental business. The first Free Dental customer bought the software July 22, 2003.[4]



The database uses the dual licensed MySQL database program. The structure of the data, or schema, is available for all to see and use (the data is still very secure). It is totally different than the proprietary format that all other dental software uses. Other programs can only export certain fields. In Open Dental, access to and control over every single piece of data is held by the dentist. Both local preferences and those which apply to every computer in the office will be stored in the mySQL database. This also greatly simplifies working with preferences and settings, and adding new workstations without having to spend all day setting them up.

The database schema is published and publicly viewable at[5]

Relational database benefits to dental practice

There are documented benefits to using a relational database when storing and retrieving data: the relational model offers "advantages over the hierarchical and network models through its simpler data representation, superior data independence and easy to use query language".[6]t Open Dental gives the user those benefits over the non-relational platforms used by other dental practice management software programs.


Relational databases like Oracle and MySQL have mechanisms that can be used to keep the availability (of the database) very high. For instance, with MySQL replication, "the active primary database ships transactions to one or more standby databases. These standby databases apply the transactions to their own copies of the data. Should the primary database fail, one of these standby databases can be activated to become the new primary database".[7] High availability is of clear importance when a customers (patients) have expectations of service at a particular time (an appointment). Open Dental provides replication support for users whose availability, mobility or multiple physical location needs demand it.[8]


Mobile dental programs have special needs including offline data collection, central data availability and public health reporting. All of these needs are met with Open Dental. An example of a mobile dental program that has published[9] their experience using Open Dental is the St. David's Dental Program.[10]


Structured Query Language (SQL) allows the user to pull data from the database for analysis. Open Dental provides over 250 user queries that have been requested by users,[11] and advanced users may write their own queries to get specialized information from the database.[12]


Open Dental can be scaled from a single, one-computer user in a small office to dozens of computers per server over multiple physical locations.[13]


The project wants "this software to become the world standard dental software. We want to make it easy to access and share data. We are tired of the restrictive policies of the current dental software companies. We want the user to always have total control, not the software company. And most of all, we want software that just works well”.[14]

There are about 2,000 dentists using OD, and an estimated 10,000,000 patient records.

Dr. Jordan Sparks has done most of the programming. He has done the many thousands of hours of programming in his spare time over the last few years.



  • Support unlimited operatories and unlimited providers
  • Customizable views, colors, default values
  • Easy to set up and modify appointments, recalls
  • Show pop-up alerts, financial and medical notes


  • Support complete patient records (HIPAA compliant)
  • When possible, fields are filled automatically or checked for potential errors
  • Save billing type and insurance information
  • Track student status and referrals
  • Track credit and contact notes
  • Sign Procedure Notes: Digital Signatures. Sign or initial procedure notes using a Topaz signature pad or by using a stylus on a touchscreen.
  • Patient Info Terminal: A way for a new patient to enter their own information from the waiting room. The receptionist controls the terminal from another computer. Can also be used to let patient update their info if it has changed. New patients can check off items in list of diseases.
    • Medical History Questionnaire: Customized list of questions and answers added to pt info terminal.


  • Customizable and easy recall scheduling
  • Send letters and emails to patients
    • Email appointment reminders, recare appointments. Supports SMTP servers that require a user name and password for sending email. Allows saving email to send later.
  • Comprehensive billing system with e-claim support
    • E-claims: go through a clearinghouse to submit all e-claims or submit directly to carries that support the X12 files/claims. The X12 EDI Format is the standard defined by ASC (ex-ANSI) and specified by HIPAA. Open dental claims to be the only dental practice management software which natively creates X12 format files without having to go through a clearing house for conversion.
  • Track all referrals and lab cases
    • Lab Cases: Each lab can be set up with its own turnaround times on each procedure type. Due dates are calculated automatically, taking into account holidays.
  • Create and track payment plans
  • Open Dental has built-in accounting that is intended to replace QuickBooks for small offices.
    • Patient's finances are organized on a patient basis, not a family basis.
  • Credit Card Processing Integrated credit card processor with swipe terminal.

Treatment Plan[18]

  • Easy to view and prioritize patients' treatment plans
  • Support multiple treatment plans
  • Print or send electronically insurance preauthorization forms


  • Easy to enter and organize patients' clinical information
  • Full featured 3D tooth charting
  • Track progress and treatment notes
  • Simple to write and print prescriptions
    • Rx Alerts: Crosslink Diseases to Rx definitions so that an alert is triggered for allergies, etc. when writing an Rx.
  • Procedure codes: Currently, the following sets of procedure codes are available as separate databases: blank, usa, canada, uk.
  • Perio Charting: voice recognition software to help with charting


  • Add and manage all images
  • Integrate with Radiography, scanner, digital camera devices
  • Images can be zoomed in and out, rotated.
  • Can attach Word, PDF, and Excel files


  • Create and send e-claims or paper claims
  • Billing automation
  • Audio and visual office intercom
  • Critical data backup
  • Flexible user-defined queries and reports
  • Track employees' hours and breaks
  • Support daily, weekly & monthly task lists
  • Built-in accounting module
  • Secure remote access
  • Language support: The code is all written to automatically adapt to the user's computer settings. The translations are specific to the culture (country), not just the language.
  • Time Cards: Customizable pay periods added so that you don't have enter the date range each time. Tracks 40 hour workweek, computes overtime, allows adjustments, and prints.
  • New Reporting Framework: The FLOSS RDL Project is included with Open Dental. It will also allow export to PDF.
  • Import from XML : This allows other programs to safely pass information to Open Dental without having to worry about accidentally corrupting the database. This will eventually lead to the ability to 'send' a patient 'chart' to another office electronically. The main purpose for now is to allow new patients to fill out their forms online.
  • Multiple Server Support

See also


  1. ^ "FLOSS Licence". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  2. ^ "Open Dental Software Manual - C#, Linux, and Macintosh". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  3. ^ "Oregon Secretary of State Business Name Search (original url )". State of Oregon. Retrieved 2009-June 3. 
  4. ^ Downes, P.K. (2007). "Putting it all Together: Dentistry and the Internet". British Dental Journal 203 (2): 74–86. ISSN 007-0610. PMID 17660777. 
  5. ^ "Open Dental Database Documentation". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  6. ^ Coronel, Carlos; Peter Rob, Keeley Crocket (2008). Database Systems. Cengage Learning EMEA. pp. 52. ISBN 1844807320. 
  7. ^ Sam Drake, Wei Hu, Dale M. McInnis, Martin Sköld, Alok Srivastava, Lars Thalmann, Matti Tikkanen, Øystein Torbjørnsen, Antoni Wolski (2004). Architecture of Highly Available Databases. pp. 1–16. 
  8. ^ "Open Dental Software - Replication". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  9. ^ Jackson DM, Jahnke LR, Kerber L, Nyer G, Siemens K, Clark C. (2007). "Creating a Successful School-based Mobile Dental Program". Journal of School Health 77 (1): 1–6. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2007.00155.x. PMID 17212753. 
  10. ^ "St. David's Community Health Foundation Leadership: Dental Program". St. David's Community Health Foundation. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  11. ^ "Open Dental Query Examples". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  12. ^ "Open Dental Software Manual - User Query". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  13. ^ "Open Dental Software Manual - Multiple Locations". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  14. ^ "FLOSS License". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  15. ^ "Open Dental Software - Appointments Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  16. ^ "Open Dental Software - Family Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  17. ^ "Open Dental Software - Account Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  18. ^ "Open Dental Software - Treatment Plan Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  19. ^ "Open Dental Software - Chart Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  20. ^ "Open Dental Software - Images Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 
  21. ^ "Open Dental Software - Manage Module". Open Dental Software Inc.. Retrieved 2009-June 12. 

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