BACKGROUND: The authors compiled information on the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, use, as well as on reports of randomized clinical trials of CAM modalities used to treat chronic facial pain. TYPES OF STUDIES REVIEWED: The authors searched several databases for reports of clinical trials randomizing patients who had facial pain to a CAM intervention or to a control or comparison group. Search terms included "complementary," "alternative," "acupuncture," "biofeedback," "relaxation," "herbal," "meditation," "massage," "yoga," "chiropractic," "homeopathic" and "naturopathic." RESULTS: Three acupuncture trials, eight biofeedback trials and three relaxation trials met the authors' inclusion criteria. Across studies, results suggested that acupuncture, biofeedback and relaxation were comparable to conservative treatment (for example, an intraoral appliance) and warranted further study. The authors did not locate any randomized clinical trials that tested the effects of homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, massage, meditation, yoga or herbal remedies for chronic facial pain. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Significant gaps in the scientific knowledge base limit the accuracy with which dental professionals can guide their patients regarding CAM approaches used to treat chronic facial pain.