Pain Center dedicated

In expanded facilities, dental school addresses complexities of pain

When Dr. Lonnie H. Norris, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, finished his postgraduate work at Tufts in 1980, oral surgeons were trying many approaches to treating mandibular pain. "We weren't having a lot of success," notes Norris. "I slept a lot better at night when I could refer patients to the Gelb Craniomandibular Pain Center."

Cutting the ceremonial ribbon at the dedication, from left, Dean Lonnie H. Norris, Dr. Noshir Mehta, center director, and Dr. Harold Gelb. © J.D. Sloan

That center—named after Dr. Harold Gelb, D47, a pioneer in understanding the complex sources of jaw pain—opened in 1985 with one part-time dentist and four operatories. By 1990, it had run out of space, according to Dr. Noshir Mehta, the center's director.

This fall, a new Craniofacial Pain Center, three times the size of the Gelb Center, opened on the sixth floor of the dental school at One Kneeland Street. "We are seeing 1,000 new patients a year," says Mehta. "We have a faculty of 15, graduate students in a three-year master's degree program, half a dozen research projects and a continuing education program."

The additional space will allow an expansion and integration of the center's multi-disciplinary services. "We will be able to incorporate and make official all we've been offering on the side," Mehta says, including pain management and sleep apnea consultations. In addition, there will be room for more graduate students, continuing education programs, clinical trials and clinicians, including psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, an acupuncturist and a neurologist, as well as dentists.