The doctor is in

Specialized help for pain or sleep disorders has arrived on campus: the new Center for Facial Pain and Sleep Medicine at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry.
March 4th, 2016

Gloved hands hold an oral appliance.

Dr. Steven Bender

Dr. Steven Bender

Dr. Steven Bender ’86, clinical assistant professor and center director, moved his Plano private practice to the dental school in January, bringing his expertise in tow. Since fall 2013 he has spent two mornings a month at TAMBCD treating patients with head, neck and temporomandibular joint pain.

As one who was once in his patients’ shoes, Bender knows firsthand the challenge of finding relief and the benefits of an integrated, accessible approach to diagnosis and pain management. The experience led him to focus exclusively on this patient population. It also fuels his desire for the TAMBCD center to provide advanced training for health professionals in this growing discipline.

Temporomandibular disorders and sleep-related breathing conditions such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea often have a cause-and-effect relationship, explains Dr. Keith Thornton ’69, whose $50,000 donation helped establish the center. Thornton’s Dallas dental practice specializes in treating sleep-disordered breathing, and he has been instrumental in creating a standardized, statewide course for dentists on treating such disorders.

Bender, president of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain, is committed to caring for patients with head and neck pain and to advancing knowledge among the professional community.

“Not only can we fill a huge need for the patients at the school and within the community, we can also unify the teaching of temporomandibular disorders, facial pain and sleep disorders so that the students feel better prepared to diagnose and treat these issues when they graduate,” Bender says.

— Carolyn Cox