What Is Orofacial Pain?
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Orofacial pain is pain perceived in the face and/or oral cavity. It is caused by diseases or disorders of regional structures, by dysfunction of the nervous system, or through referral from distant sources. Treatment of orofacial pain is a specialty in dentistry in many parts of the world and an emerging area of specialization in others.[i]

The Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association recognizes that advanced education in orofacial pain includes training beyond the level of predoctoral education in oral health care, using applied basic and behavioral sciences.[ii]

The orofacial pain dentist often serves as a consultant to other dentists, physicians and other healthcare providers, but is frequently the principal treating health care provider administering care at various levels. Therefore, the Orofacial Pain Dentist must be competent in the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention, of orofacial pain disorders.

The scope of Orofacial Pain includes diagnosis and treatment of, but not limited to: 

  • Intraoral, intracranial, extra cranial, and systemic disorders that cause orofacial pain
  • Complex masticatory and cervical musculoskeletal pain
  • Neurovascular pain, i.e. headache disorders resulting in orofacial pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Psychosocial concerns
  • Sleep disorders related to orofacial pain
  • Pain secondary to systemic disorders such as cancer or AIDS
  • Regional pain syndromes
  • Orofacial movement disorders
  • Other complex disorders causing persistent pain and dysfunction of the orofacial structures

The diagnosis and management of orofacial pain syndromes relies on the knowledge and skills of a clinician with expertise in:

  • The ability to elicit a complete history of the patient's current complaints and medical background
  • The ability to perform a complete head and neck examination
  • Knowledge of imaging technique, laboratory and diagnostic studies appropriate for diagnosis of various orofacial pain disorders
  • The ability to arrive at a differential diagnosis of temporomandibular and orofacial pain disorders
  • Knowledge of behavioral and psychosocial assessment and diagnosis related to chronic pain
  • Communication skills and the ability to direct interdisciplinary treatment planning with other health providers 

Orofacial pain is an evolving area within the field of dentistry dedicated to the treatment of complex orofacial pain disorders. The scope of the field is enlarging.

[i] IASP Fact Sheets, http://www.iasp-pain.org/Content/NavigationMenu/GlobalYearAgainstPain/GlobalYearAgainstOrofacialPain/FactSheets/default.htm

[ii] Accreditation Standards for Advanced General Dentistry Education Programs in

Orofacial Pain, Commission on Dental Accreditation, American Dental Association, Copyright© 2009,