You are currently viewing The emerging specialty of orofacial pain

The emerging specialty of orofacial pain

In the last 18 years of my practice as a maxillofacial prosthodontist, I have come across several unexplained, unresolved teeth pain as well as patients having undergone unnecessary invasive procedures in an attempt to relieve pain.

I am a strong advocate of the fact that one should look beyond teeth and joints to treat certain types of pain and discomfort and this helped me make a natural progression from prosthodontics to a vast but relatively unexplored field of Orofacial pain.

Orofacial pain is perceived on the head, face or oral cavity and is caused by disorders of the regional structures by dysfunction of the nervous system or referral from distant sources. The scope of treatment of an orofacial pain specialist is a complex spectrum of disorders ranging from headaches, fibromyalgia to dental sleep medicine.

Diagnosis and the comprehensive management of these disorders does pose a significant challenge to the general practitioner and I realized that very few were trained to recognize these problems. The rest were left perplexed by the unresolved issues.

While Temporomandibular Joint Disorders or TMDs may be the most obvious and well-known reason for referral to an OFP specialist, the lesser diagnosed problems include neuropathic pain, neurovascular pain and psychogenic pain.

The American Dental Association has now recognized Orofacial pain as the 12th speciality.  This backing, as well as my long hours of training during fellowship and (Mastership) in orofacial pain, empowers me to provide chronic pain patients with a model that includes diagnosis, patient education, medication, physical therapy and behaviour modifications. Treatment also includes the management of sleep breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea to maintain the airway, reduce snoring and improve sleep hygiene.

I work on the firm belief that one can no longer be complacent with improper and anecdotal treatments. Treatment provided is based on proper evidence and not opinion.

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