For decades, the field of orofacial pain was not a specialty recognized by the American Dental Association. This made it difficult for patients who suffered from TMJ and jaw problems to get proper treatment.
Equally difficult was the fact that dentists and dental specialists had a hard time finding practitioners to refer their patients to who had the experience and skills to assess and manage these problems and sometimes disabling pain conditions. For years, orofacial pain academies and the American Board of Orofacial Pain consistently urged the American Dental Association to designate orofacial pain as a board-certified specialty. Their efforts were always met with defeat.
As a result, practitioners were left to take on the challenges of treating patients with facial and jaw pain (TMJ), with the knowledge that people in leadership at the ADA had not yet grasped the importance and professional value of this initiative. Despite these setbacks, the push to create a new specialty was never abandoned.
On March 31, 2020, the American Dental Associations’ National Commission on Specialty Status finally approved orofacial pain as a specialty. (To see the full definition, scroll down)
What Does This Mean For Patients?
Because of this move, I expect more dental schools to expand their commitment to teaching the concepts of orofacial pain assessment and treatment. As a result, more dentists will graduate familiar with the pain problems they will encounter in their practices, including TMJ. In addition, over time, graduating dentists will pursue careers in the field and fill voids that currently exist in communities throughout our nation and the world. It’s too early to predict the full outcome of this important new designation, but I’m hopeful that people who are suffering will find it easier to get the treatment they so desperately need.
If you have questions about TMJ, please feel free to reach out to me.
Onward and upward!
Definition Of Orofacial Pain
The specialty of Orofacial Pain (OFP) “involves the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients with orofacial pain disorders, including temporomandibular muscle and joint (TMJ) disorders, oromotor and jaw behavior disorders, neuropathic and neurovascular pain disorders, and related head and neck pain, as well as expanding our knowledge of the underlying cause and mechanisms of these disorders. This specialty also includes screening, management, and coordination of care associated with sleep-related breathing disorders.”