BACKGROUND: The growing availability of electronic data offers practitioners increased opportunities for reusing clinical data for research and quality improvement. However, relatively little is known about what clinical data practitioners keep on their computers regarding patients. METHODS: The authors conducted a web-based survey of 991 U.S. and Scandinavian practitioner-investigators (P-Is) in The Dental Practice-Based Research Network to determine the extent of their use of computers to manage clinical information; the type of patient information they kept on paper, a computer or both; and their willingness to reuse electronic dental record (EDR) data for research. RESULTS: A total of 729 (73.6 percent) of 991 P-Is responded.A total of 73.8 percent of U.S. solo practitioners and 78.7 percent of group practitioners used a computer to manage some patient information, and 14.3 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively, managed all patient information on a computer. U.S. practitioners stored appointments, treatment plans, completed treatment and images electronically most frequently, and the periodontal charting, diagnosis, medical history, progress notes and the chief complaint least frequently.More than 90 percent of Scandinavian practitioners stored all information electronically.A total of 50.8 percent of all P-Is were willing to reuse EDR data for research, and 63.1 percent preferred electronic forms for data collection. CONCLUSION: The results of this study show that the trend toward increased adoption of EDRs in the United States is continuing, potentially making more data in electronic form available for research. Participants appear to be willing to reuse EDR data for research and to collect data electronically. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The rising rates of EDR adoption may offer increased opportunities for reusing electronic data for quality improvement and research.