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Application for Specialty Approved by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards 

It is our honor to announce that the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards has reviewed and accepted the application from the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP) to make Orofacial Pain the newest specialty of Dentistry.  The Commission is now inviting public comment on the application posted at before final approval.

We encourage you to send your letters of support regarding the need to recognize Orofacial Pain as a dental specialty to the National Commission.  Written comments will be accepted through 5:00 p.m. (central daylight savings time (CST)) on October, 28, 2019 and be addressed to:

Ms. Catherine Baumann

Director of the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards

or mailed to the following address:
The National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards 

211 East Chicago Avenue, 6th floor 
Chicago, IL 60611

The National Commission will review letters and discuss recognition of Orofacial Pain for final approval at their next meeting on March 2-3, 2020 at the American Dental Association Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. 

We congratulate the specialty committee, Chair Dr. James Fricton and all of those who have been involved in our efforts to make Orofacial Pain a Dental Specialty over the past 30 years. This step forward would not have been possible without efforts of numerous AAOP past presidents, Council Members and volunteers who generously gave of their time and talents over a span of three decades.  Now, AAOP needs you to assist in seeing this endeavor through to its completion.  If approved, this will truly be a significant event to both develop the field of Orofacial Pain and improve access to care for those in the public who have these conditions.


Dr. Jay Mackman, President, American Academy of Orofacial Pain

Dr. Jennifer Bassiur, AAOP Council Chair

Dr. Jeffrey Shaefer, AAOP President-Elect

Dr. Paul Durham, AAOP Treasurer

Dr. Robert Mier, AAOP Secretary

Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, AAOP Secretary-Elect

Dr. Ghabi Kaspo, AAOP Council Vice-Chair

Dr. Aurelio Alonso, AAOP Director

Dr. Gary K. Klasser, AAOP Director & Past President

Dr. Michele A. Schultz-Robins, AAOP Director

Dr. Mariona Mulet, AAOP Director

Dr. Isabel Moreno Hay, AAOP Director

Dr. Andrew Smith, AAOP Director

Mr. Kenneth Cleveland, AAOP Executive Director


In February 2008, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) adopted a resolution to establish a process of accreditation for the advanced general dentistry education programs in the area of orofacial pain.  Orofacial Pain programs are currently applying for and becoming accredited by CODA



AAOP Specialty Fact Sheet

Orofacial Pain as a ADA Dental Specialty


An application for recognition of Orofacial Pain as a dental specialty was submitted to the American Dental Association

in 1999 by the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP). The AAOP would like to inform all dentists about this

proposed specialty and answer specific questions about it through this fact sheet. If you have other questions, please

contact us using the information listed on the reverse side.


What is the field of Orofacial Pain?


Orofacial Pain is the discipline of Dentistry which includes the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients with

complex chronic orofacial pain and dysfunction disorders, oromotor and jaw behavior disorders, and chronic head and

neck pain, as well as the pursuit of knowledge of the underlying pathophysiology and mechanisms of these disorders.


What disorders are included in the proposed specialty of Orofacial Pain?


The proposed specialty of orofacial pain includes diagnosis and management of patients with complex chronic orofacial

pain disorders including neuropathic orofacial pain disorders, neurovascular orofacial pain disorders, chronic regional

pain syndrome, complex masticatory and cervical neuromuscular pain disorders, primary headache disorders, pain from

complex temporomandibular joint disorders, pain secondary to orofacial cancer and AIDS, orofacial dyskinesias and

dystonias, orofacial sleep disorders, and other complex disorders causing persistent pain and dysfunction of the orofacial

structures. These patients are common in clinical populations, can have major personal problems due to the pain and

require a sophisticated multi-disciplinary approach to their care. This specialty does not include acute pain from disorders

such as pulpitis, periodontal disease, routine temporomandibular disorders, routine jaw muscle disorders, surgical

treatment of TM joint disorders or nerve injuries, impacted 3rd molars, dental hypersensitivity, burning mouth, and other

disorders that are part of many dentist’s or dental specialist’s practices. The field also does not include treatment or

prevention of acute pain and anxiety from dental surgical or operative procedures.


How common are chronic orofacial pain disorders?


According to prevalence studies, over 7% of the population or 13 million people have experienced a chronic orofacial

pain disorder that need treatment in the past year (Lipton, 1993). Considering data on health care utilization for these

chronic orofacial pain patients, an estimate of the total cases that have sought treatment is about 2.0% of the population or

3 million people per year. That leaves over 10 million patients with chronic orofacial pain disorders who are left



Who treats chronic orofacial pain patients now?


Studies suggest that chronic orofacial pain patients are not being treated adequately by current general practitioners or

dental specialists and there is a great need for orofacial pain dentists. The percent of non-orofacial pain dentists who treat

any of these patients is low including; General Dentists (14%), Oral Surgeons (22%), Orthodontists (13%),

Endodontists(5%), Periodontists (4%), Prosthodontists (5%), and Pediatric dentists (11%) and that nearly all (95%) have

less than 5% of their practice in this field (Look, et al, 1999). Furthermore, studies have found that these patients have a

high number of previous clinicians (a mean of 5.3) and many years with pain (mean of 4.2 years) prior to seeing an

orofacial pain dentist (AAOP, 1999).


How can a dentist become an Orofacial Pain dentist?


Currently, dentists who have focused their careers in Orofacial Pain for the past 5 years and who have accumulated 400 hours of continuing education in the field of orofacial pain are eligible to sit for the written examination offered by the American Board of Orofacial Pain.  Upon successful completion of the written exam, candidates must pass an oral exam to become Diplomates of the American Board of Orofacial Pain, and with that, achieve the rights and privileges associated with Diplomate status. 


How will Dentistry benefit by establishing a specialty in Orofacial Pain?


Dentistry will be able to better serve the public by providing a respected and traditional mechanism to ensure that dentists

practicing in the field maintain a consistent standard of care. As a dentist, you will be able to identify dentists with the

knowledge and experience in managing complex chronic pain problems and be provided a resource for general

practitioners and specialists to refer patients not responding to your basic therapy.


What do dentists think about a new specialty in Orofacial Pain?


A recent survey of 405 dentists found that 95% either do or would like to refer these patients to an orofacial pain dentist

and dentists supported an ADA specialty in orofacial pain by an 8 to 1 margin. (Look et al 1999).


If training programs and board certification already exist, why do we need a specialty?


The lack of funding for training and research has restricted viability of training programs and expansion of knowledge in

the field. Lack of acceptance of orofacial pain practitioners by the health care establishment has limited third party

reimbursement and the development of clinical practice of this field. Recognition by the ADA will improve funding for

training, research, and clinical practice and improve the quality of care for these patients.


Since our patients are our primary concern, of what benefit will specialty status be to them?


The primary goal of credentialing in Orofacial Pain is to improve the standards of care and success in treatment of patients

with chronic orofacial pain disorders. In addition, it will help patients and practitioners identify qualified Orofacial Pain

dentists with the experience and knowledge to successfully help them. With specialty status, insurers will be more likely

to have policies that provide coverage for orofacial pain and TM disorders and costs will most likely be reduced because

of more appropriate and timely referrals.


Does this mean that non-orofacial pain dentists will no longer be treating TMD patients?


Emphatically no! As with other specialties in dentistry, the Orofacial Pain dentist will be available to treat the more

complex and time consuming patients, while the straight-forward patients or patients with specific dental needs will

continue to have care provided by specialists of other areas of dentistry or general dentists who have an interest in the

TMD. However, dentists will be able to refer the complex patients with more confidence in much the same manner as

you now refer to other dental specialties.


Why should I support the ADA application for specialty status now?


There are many current threats to providing high quality care to our patients. We believe the ADA has the responsibility

in Dentistry to provide leadership in new fields that have historically been lacking. They need to provide a source of

trained and certified Orofacial Pain dentists to address both the current and future societal needs for clinicians and faculty

and the increasing demand for services in this field. With your support, the ADA can then make great strides in serving

the public, nurturing the art and science of Orofacial Pain, and improving the quality of care for these patients.