What is Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain?
We mention ‘Oral Medicine Specialist’ and ‘Orofacial Pain Specialist’ quite a bit on our website. In this post, we’d like to share more about what these specialisations are about, and the role they play in dental healthcare. We will also elaborate on how a dentist who is trained in both Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain can help in the management and treatment of various pain disorders, such as TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders).
Oral Medicine is the 11th ADA (American Dental Association) recognised dental specialty. As per The American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM), Oral Medicine is defined as:
“The specialty of dentistry responsible for the oral health care of medically complex patients and for the diagnosis and management of medically related disorders or conditions affecting the oral and maxillofacial region.”
Orofacial Pain is the 12th ADA recognised dental speciality, and according to the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP), it is the speciality of dentistry that includes the diagnosis, management and treatment of pain disorders of the jaw, mouth, face, head and neck such as TMD / TMJ Disorders. Orofacial Pain as a dental specialty is evidence-based, and aims to prevent and treat such disorders. It also aims to improve access to interdisciplinary patient care.
In the United Kingdom (UK), in contrast to the United States of America (USA), Orofacial Pain is considered a subspecialty of Oral Medicine – a dental specialty under the auspices of the Dental Faculties of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons. Notwithstanding, whichever the case might be, the close intertwining of these two areas of practice is clear.
*Disclaimer: Any reference to ‘specialisation’ or ‘Fellowship(s)’ is made in accordance with the qualifying standards and context of the respective American Academies in the United States of America (USA), and not Singapore. Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine are not established specialities in Singapore. Please read our Disclaimers and FAQ pages for more information.
Accreditation in Oral Medicine
In order to earn their accreditation in Oral Medicine, a dentist needs to undergo a residency training programme for at least 24 months. The training programme is rigorous and covers many areas of medicine including cardiology, neurology, infectious diseases, oncology, otolaryngology (ENT), internal medicine and much more.
Upon certification, Oral Medicine doctors may perform specialised medical procedures in relation to oral healthcare. They are also trained in oral pathology and oral radiology, and may order and interpret such test results.
Accreditation in Orofacial Pain
With over 30 TMJ disorders, sleep disorders, and other head, neck and jaw dysfunctions, Orofacial Pain is a much needed speciality that is rapidly evolving in the field of dentistry.
In order to be recognised as an Orofacial Pain Specialist, a dentist has to be a Fellow of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP), or complete a formal advanced training education in Orofacial Pain that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), or has passed the American Board of Orofacial Pain (ABOP) Certification Examination. They also need to demonstrate clear understanding of orofacial pain through graduate or post graduate training, research or clinical experience.
What Does an Oral Medicine Specialist & Orofacial Pain Specialist Do?
Beyond general dentistry, a dentist who is trained in Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain is further equipped with skills and knowledge to diagnose and treat patients with disorders of the jaw, mouth, face, head and neck regions. Many orofacial pain symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches and facial pain are invisible, and sometimes patients get misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed for long periods of time.
Patients often feel like they have toothaches, yet there is nothing wrong with their teeth specifically. The cause of their pains may be in fact due to musculoskeletal, neurologic, systemic, TMJ disorders or some other source. Orofacial Pain specialists are trained to assess such symptoms, recognise how these anatomical structures are related, and how acute or chronic pain can manifest as a result.
Some of these conditions include, but are not limited to:
- TMD / TMJ Disorders
- Locked jaw
- Orofacial pain
- Myofascial Pain
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Migraine disorders
- Headache disorders
- Autoimmune conditions of the mouth that may cause pain, such as Pemphigus
- Mouth infections
- Canker sores
- Bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding)
- Dry mouth
- Tongue fissures
- Sleep apnoea
- and more.
A good Orofacial Pain specialist and/or Oral Medicine Specialist often works closely with other healthcare professionals as well, in order to manage medically complex patients for the best possible results. Often a biopsychosocial model is used, which takes biological, psychological and social factors into consideration, when it comes to their impact on health and wellness, and also treatment options that are most suited for each individual patient.
How Nourish Dental & TMJ Care Can Help with Orofacial Pain
Dr. Eric Chionh runs the practice at Nourish Dental & TMJ Care, together with a dedicated team. Dr. Chionh is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP), and an Academic Fellow of The American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM). He also holds a Singapore Dental Council approved qualification in these areas.
Academic Fellow status in the American Academy of Oral Medicine is a highly respected and sought-after credential for Oral Medicine practitioners who demonstrate proficiency in diagnosis and management of oral mucosal diseases, difficult oral/dental diagnoses, orofacial pain, and dental management of medically complex patients. Fellowship encourages practitioners to pursue higher levels of knowledge and skill in the practice of Oral Medicine.
Dr. Chionh has over 20 years of hands-on experience in the treatment of Orofacial Pain, and also in the treatment of TMD or TMJ Disorders. He is passionate about improving his patients’ quality of life using evidence-based medicine. We use the necessary technology to diagnose, treat and manage each patient’s condition at Nourish Dental & TMJ Care. We believe in working together with the patient to find the most suitable solutions to their problems and to manage their pain.