One of the differences between the general dentist and the orofacial pain specialist is in the area of education and training.
An orofacial pain (OFP) specialist needs to undergo additional training to expand their scope of dentistry knowledge beyond that of a general dentist. These formal clinical training is also known as ‘residencies’ in the USA. Many rigorous examinations need to be passed before they can be qualified.
As a result of this advanced training, the orofacial pain specialist has more in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and oral medicine. They are familiar with medications that are not typically prescribed in general dentistry.
An orofacial pain dentist should be competent in diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of orofacial pain disorders. These include but are not limited to: neuropathic pain, masticatory, cervical pain, musculoskeletal pain, neurovascular pain, psychological concerns and sleep disorders.
Orofacial pain is a much needed speciality that is rapidly evolving in the field of dentistry. It is important for general dentists to be able to recognise the symptoms of orofacial pain, so that they can refer their patients to a dental practitioner who can help manage their pain.
Disclaimer: As of March 30, 2020, the ADA (American Dental Association) has officially recognised Orofacial Pain as its 12th dental speciality. Any reference to ‘specialist’ is made in the context of the United States of America.