I have some really great news for you this month! About two weeks ago, I received notification through the Texas Dental Association Newsletter that the State of Texas will now allow those of us who are board certified in our respective specialties to advertise to the public as specialists. Even though TMD and Orofacial Pain is not a certified specialty by the American dental Association, this is a major victory for those of use who limited our practice to this treatment. I never actually thought that I would see this happen in my lifetime but because of hard, diligent work by many people, we have succeeded in the first step toward specialty recognition.
As many of you know, and as I have written in previous newsletters, the American Academy of Orofacial Pain has, for the last 25 years, petitioned the American Dental Association on several different occasions for specialty recognition. The Academy has spent close to $½ million on fulfilling all of the requirements of the ADA. On four different occasions we have presented our application for specialty recognition and have been denied each time because of some “technicality.” It has become a political issue within the American Dental Association and, because of that, there is a very active and powerful opposition to our petition.
The last time the AAOP presented our application for specialty status, we did so along with four other specialty groups. Those groups included Dental Implantology, Dental Anesthesiology, Dental Radiology, and Oral Medicine. Four of the five applications were denied. The only group which was able to achieve specialty status with the ADA was Dental Radiology.
After several years of discussion within each of the groups, it was determined that we would sue each State of the USA for the right to advertise to the public stating that our practice was not a General Practice but one that was a specialty. We did this through the First Amendment right of the Freedom of Speech. Our attorney was absolutely brilliant and the person to whom I credit with the success of our lawsuit. We began the process with the State of Texas.
In essence, the ruling of the Texas State Attorney General and District Court stated that if a dentist is Board Certified and is a member in good standing within one of the four groups named in the lawsuit, then that dentist has the right to inform the public as to the nature of their practice. Before this ruling I was not allowed to call myself a specialist because Orofacial Pain and TMD is not a recognized specialty of the American Dental Association. I had to advertise to the public that I was a General Dentist even though my practice does not include general dentistry in my daily activities. It was against state law for me to say that my practice was limited only to TMD and Orofacial Pain. Now that has changed and I, along with Dr. Pettit, have the right to inform the public that we are Diplomates of the American Board of Orofacial Pain and that our practice is one which specializes in the treatment of TMD and Orofacial Pain.
The AAOP will continue to work closely with the American Dental Association and will try again to obtain certification for specialty status along with Oral Surgery, Orthodontics, Periodontics, Endodontics, Prosthodontics, etc. It is my hope that we will be able to achieve this status.
What will this status mean to you, the patient? Well it is very frustrating for me that insurance does not cover our fees. Insurance companies say it is because we have no standards in this field. They consider the treatment to be experimental and without a standard of care. Having a specialty will establish a standard of care, because now the residency programs devoted to Orofacial Pain will be recognized as the “standard of care.” It will also make it easier for you to know the doctors who are board certified in Orofacial Pain, rather than someone who has just taken a weekend course and is now incorporating TMD treatment into their general practice. There are several things which will make it much easier for you, as the patient, to discern: what is evidence-based treatment and who is the practitioner trained to deliver that type of care. I feel that this will eventually become a win-win for everyone.
This newsletter will end a major era of my life and my practice. For the past 30 years, I have been writing this newsletter each month. I did this to inform you as to the issues that face the field of Orofacial Pain and TMD as well as to give you insight into the activities that I pursue in order to prepare myself to deliver the care that you receive. However, all things must come to an end. I have chosen this month to turn the task of continuing the newsletter over to Dr. Pettit. Of course, I will be writing guest editorials from time to time, but I will not have the chief responsibility of writing each monthly newsletter.
It has been an extreme honor to be not only your caregiver but your spokesperson within the profession for TMD and Orofacial Pain. You are my greatest asset. Your care and your loyalty means everything to me and as long as I have breath, I will continue to work diligently to provide you with the type of care that can only be found here at MedCenter TMJ.
Ronald C. Auvenshine, DDS, PhD
Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain