Objectives: To conduct a systematic review of epidemiological literature in order to determine the prevalence and associated risk factors of oro-facial pain.
Data: Population based observational studies (cohorts, cross-sectional and case-control studies) of oro-facial pain, published in the English language, prior to 1999 were included.
Sources: Electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Cinahl, BIDS and Health CD) were searched. Reference lists of relevant articles were examined, and the journals "Pain" and "Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology" were handsearched for the years 1994-1998.
Results: The results of the search strategy were screened for relevance. A standardised checklist was used to assess the methodological quality of each study by two reviewers before an attempt was made to summarise the results. The median quality score was 70% of the maximum attainable score. Due to methodological issues, it was not possible to pool the data on the prevalence of oro-facial pain. Age, gender and psychological factors were found to be associated with OFP, however there was not enough information on other factors such as local mechanical and co-morbidities to draw any reliable conclusions. None of the factors fully fulfilled criteria for causality.
Conclusions: There is a need for good quality epidemiological studies of oro-facial pain in the general population. To enable comprehensive examination of the aetiology of oro-facial pain, it is necessary to address a broad range of factors including demography and life-style, local mechanical factors, medical history and psychological factors. Future studies should recruit adequately sized samples for precise determination of the prevalence and detection of important associated factors. Data on potential confounders and effect modifiers should also be collected and adjusted for in the statistical analysis.