Orofacial pain emerging as a dental specialty.

R. S. Rosenbaum, J. R. Friction, J. P. Okeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The emerging field of orofacial pain was considered by the American Dental Association for full status as a new dental specialty. While the recognition of orofacial pain as a specialty was denied, the American Academy of Orofacial Pain plans to continue its efforts. Many recent advances in the neuroscience of orofacial pain have led to treatments that provide significant relief for patients with chronic orofacial pain disorders. However, access to this care has been limited, leaving many patients to suffer. Dentists are generally supportive of the efforts to develop oral pain treatment into a specialty because the field will provide benefits for both dentists and their patients. A recent survey of 805 individuals who reported having a persistent pain disorder revealed that more than four out of 10 people have yet to find adequate relief, saying their pain is out of control--despite having the pain for more than five years and switching doctors at least once. "This survey suggests that there are millions of people living with severe uncontrolled pain," says Russell Portenoy, MD, president of the American Pain Society. "This is a great tragedy. Although not everyone can be helped, it is likely that most of these patients could benefit if provided with state-of-the-art therapies and improved access to pain specialists when needed." Development of the field of orofacial pain into a dental specialty has been moved primarily by the fact that historically, patients with complex chronic orofacial pain disorders have not been treated well by any discipline of healthcare. Recent studies of chronic orofacial pain patients have found that these patients have a higher number of previous clinicians and have endured many years with pain prior to seeing an orofacial pain dentist (see Figure 1). Complex pain patients and the clinicians who see them are often confused about who they should consult for relief of the pain. Treatment for those patients within the existing structure of dental or medical specialties has been inadequate, with millions of patients left suffering. Insurers are also confused with regard to reimbursement and may make decisions to exclude treatment for orofacial pain disorders under both dental and medical policies. However, dentistry has taken a leading role in healthcare to address the national problem of developing the field of orofacial pain into a dental specialty. A study of dentists and dental specialists has shown that there is a recognized need and broad support for developing this field into a specialty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-38
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of the Massachusetts Dental Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (all)


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