Get access

Classifying orofacial pains: a new proposal of taxonomy based on ontology


Donald Nixdorf, DDS MS, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota, 6-320 Moos Tower, 515 Delaware Street S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail:


Summary  We propose a new taxonomy model based on ontological principles for disorders that manifest themselves through the symptom of persistent orofacial pain and are commonly seen in clinical practice and difficult to manage. Consensus meeting of eight experts from various geographic areas representing different perspectives (orofacial pain, headache, oral medicine and ontology) as an initial step towards improving the taxonomy. Ontological principles were introduced, reviewed and applied during the consensus building process. Diagnostic criteria for persistent dento-alveolar pain disorder (PDAP) were formulated as an example to be used to model the taxonomical structure of all orofacial pain conditions. These criteria have the advantage of being (i) anatomically defined, (ii) in accordance with other classification systems for the provision of clinical care, (iii) descriptive and succinct, (iv) easy to adapt for applications in varying settings, (v) scalable and (vi) transferable for the description of pain disorders in other orofacial regions of interest. Limitations are that the criteria introduce new terminology, do not have widespread acceptance and have yet to be tested. These results were presented to the greater conference membership and were unanimously accepted. Consensus for the diagnostic criteria of PDAP was established within this working group. This is an initial first step towards developing a coherent taxonomy for orofacial pain disorders, which is needed to improve clinical research and care.