TMJ Specialist: Identity Crisis


As many of you know, the title of “TMJ specialist” is confusing and debatable. At MedCenter TMJ, we want the public to know that we have a passion for treating disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). We want the public to know that we are confident in our assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of TMJ disorders. We do everything we can to improve the health and comfort of your jaws. It’s all we do! However, by state law, we are not to advertise as “TMJ specialists.” The following post will shed some light on the issues behind the use of the term “TMJ specialist.”

Is there such a thing as a TMJ specialist? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), there is not. The ADA currently only recognizes nine dental specialties. These include:

1) Dental Public Health

2) Endodontics

3) Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

4) Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology

5) Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

6) Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics

7) Pediatric Dentistry

8) Periodontics

9) Prosthodontics

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners has included in their rules and regulations that, “A dentist may advertise as a specialist or use the terms ‘specialty’ or ‘specialist’ to describe professional services in recognized specialty areas that are… accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association.” – §108.54. Advertising of Specialties. SBDE Rules and Regulations

“Temporomandibular Joint Disorders” and “Orofacial Pain” are not included in the recognized list of specialties by the ADA. This means that a dentist who has limited his or her practice to the treatment of orofacial pain and temporomandibular disorders cannot advertise as a “TMJ specialist.” No dentist in Texas can make the claim to be a TMJ specialist. There is no degree with ADA recognition for this title. “TMJ specialists” do not exist in the state of Texas.

Dr. Ronald Auvenshine has received extensive training beyond his dental degree, including a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Human Anatomy, with research on the neuroembryology of TMJ formation. Dr. Nathan Pettit continued his education beyond his dental degree to receive a Master of Science in Dentistry (MSD), with a certificate in the ADA recognized specialty of Prosthodontics. We participate in research specific to TMJ disorders. Our practice focuses on the treatment of the TMJ and associated disorders. Yet Texas regulation denies us the ability to advertise as TMJ specialists.

Dr. Auvenshine has been actively involved in petitioning the ADA to recognize orofacial pain and craniomandibular disorders as an individual entity and specialty within dentistry for over 30 years. Politics often trump reason. He continues the effort today. Our goal at Medcenter TMJ is to educate young and experienced dentists in the understanding and management of these disorders. It is too frequent we hear the story of a patient searching for years before being directed to our clinic for diagnosis and treatment of their condition.

With advances in technology, most people will search for a doctor to treat their TMJ problems by googling “TMJ Specialist” or “TMJ Doctor.” The challenge we face is helping the public know who we are without using these terms. We thank you for sharing your experiences with your peers. We want to get the word out for those who are still searching for answers. Our team is committed to finding an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan for your jaw. We believe that the vast majority of people with jaw dysfunction can be managed very well without surgery. Our goal is to conservatively restore stability to your jaw, allow more freedom of movement, less jaw pain, and better quality of life. If you believe your jaw stability has been compromised, we invite you to call or visit us online to schedule an appointment. At MedCenter TMJ, we do everything we can to improve the health of your jaws. It’s all we do!

–          Nathan J. Pettit DMD, MSD

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