Referrals to facial pain specialists take more than a year

Patients with facial pain usually see two or more physicians and wait more than 17 months before being referred to a specialist, according to a new study. This delay can cause the pain to escalate from acute to chronic, the authors noted.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University gathered data from American Academy of Oral Medicine members on the current state of facial pain and oral medicine in the U.S., and published their findings in Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology (April 2015, Vol. 119:4, pp. 408-415). The study included 74 facial pain and oral medicine specialists in 20 states who provided information about patient demographics, referring healthcare providers, medical issues, diagnoses, and their practices. Only 5% of the specialists were in private practice, while almost half (46%) practiced in dental schools. About a third (31%) practiced in hospitals.

In addition to the findings on specialist referrals, the researchers found the following:

  • The leading cause of referral was for oral lesions. Referrals came from general dentists, otolaryngologists, oncologists, and dermatologists, among others.
  • The average patient was 57 years old, and nearly twice as many of the patients were women.
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