Dental Sleep Medicine and Craniofacial Pain Education Makes Global Impact

Drs. Terry Bennett and Mayoor Patel explain how the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine is recognizing the critical need for specialized dental education, particularly in the areas of obstructive sleep apnea, craniofacial pain, and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).

800x400 patelby Drs. Terry Bennett and Mayoor Patel

Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) has long stood at the forefront of dental education, pioneering research, and community service. With a mission deeply rooted in the belief that access to quality dental care is a cornerstone of global health, TUSDM is now taking significant strides to spread dental education globally, particularly in the specialized areas of obstructive sleep apnea, craniofacial pain, and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).

This ambitious endeavor aims to train the world’s dentists here in Boston and around the globe to transform the landscape of dental medicine. It’s an opportunity for dentists worldwide to expand their practices to reach more patients.

The Burden of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), craniofacial pain, and TMD represent a trio of conditions that not only affect oral health but also have far-reaching implications on overall well-being. OSA, a condition marked by repeated breathing interruptions during sleep, has been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

Globally, OSA affects a significant portion of the adult population with some research signaling nearly 1 billion adults between the ages of 30 and 69 suffering from mild to severe OSA. In that same age range, about 425 million may have moderate to severe OSA. These estimations highlight the widespread nature of the condition and underscore the need for effective diagnostic and treatment strategies worldwide.

The Impact of Craniofacial Pain

Similarly, craniofacial pain and TMD can lead to chronic discomfort, impairing quality of life and overall health. The numbers affected speaks to the urgency of increasing education and treatment options in dental offices everywhere. Research estimates the prevalence of TMD to be between 5% and 12% around the world, a global burden that varies by age, gender, and other demographic factors. It presents a considerable public health issue due to its impact on quality of life and association with other craniofacial pain conditions.

The Pain and Sleep Connection

Beyond the global impact of TMD, craniofacial pain and sleep apnea on their own, there is also a connection that needs to be addressed. In a study published in the International Journal of General Medicine, researchers found individuals with sleep disorders had a higher risk for TMD than those who did not have a sleep disorder. This places even more emphasis on the need for dentists to offer treatments for both TMD and sleep apnea. And it starts with education.

It’s Time to Continue Your Learning

Recognizing the critical need for specialized training in these areas, TUSDM has developed comprehensive programs aimed at equipping dental professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to diagnose, treat, and manage these complex conditions.

By integrating cutting-edge research, clinical expertise, and a multidisciplinary approach, TUSDM’s curriculum is uniquely designed to address this global challenge. Through partnerships with dental schools and health organizations around the world, TUSDM is extending its reach, offering hands-on training sessions that are accessible to dental professionals regardless of location. This will create a worldwide network of trained dental professionals who can make a difference in their communities.

Tufts University School of Dental Medicine Global Academy is improving knowledge, skills, and access to many other areas of dentistry as well as dental sleep medicine. Read more about it in this interview with Dr. Shibani Sahni here:

Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS, D.ABDSM, DABOP, DABCP, DABCDSM, DAIPM, RPSGT, FAAOP, FICCMO, FAACP, FAGD, FPFA, received his dental degree from the University of Tennessee in 1994 and then went on to complete a one-year residency in Advanced Education in General Dentistry. He also earned a Masters in Science from Tufts University in 2011. Dr. Patel served as an Adjunct Clinical Instructor at the Craniofacial Pain Center at Tufts Dental School from 2011-2014 and presently again. Since 2003, he has limited his practice, Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Medicine Center of Georgia, to the treatment of TMJ Disorders, Headaches, Facial Pain, Sleep Apnea, and Snoring.


Terry Bennett, DMD, DABCP, D.ABDSM, has had more than 40 years of experience in private dental practice. Dr. Bennett graduated from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry with his dental degree in 1977. For the past three decades, Dr. Bennett has limited his practice, The Tulsa Orofacial Pain & Sleep Disorders Clinic, to the conservative treatment of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) and sleep apnea.

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