A small study published in Acupuncture in Medicine suggests that acupuncture can calm highly anxious dental patients. It helps ensure that they can be given the treatment they require.

It is estimated that in one in twenty people, a visit to the dentist provokes extreme fear and anxiety. It can even keep them from going altogether. This is a condition called odontophobia. Studies indicate that up to a third of patients report moderate anxiety at the prospect of dental treatment.

The findings are based on the study of sixteen women and four men from eight dental practice lists.

The Back Anxiety Inventory (BAI) is a validated questionnaire. It assessed that each of the patients was moderately or extremely anxious about going to the dentist for treatment.

All patients were in their 40s and had been trying to deal with this problem for between two and thirty years.

The BAI score was assessed before and after five minutes of acupuncture treatment. Two specific acupuncture points (GV20 and EX6) on the top of the head were targeted.

The acupuncture was carried out by the dentists themselves. They were all members of the British Dental Acupuncture Society.

The average BAI score of 26.5 fell to 11.5. In addition, all twenty patients were able to undergo their planned treatment. Before acupuncture, treatment had only been possible in six and in some cases only partially and after a great deal of effort on the part of both dentist and patient.

The authors point out that several attempts have been made to overcome this type of anxiety, including:

• sedatives
• relaxation techniques
• behavioral therapies
• biofeedback
• hypnosis

The research indicates that these treatment options are helpful. However, they are time consuming. In addition, the authors point out that if they are applied properly, they require considerable levels of psychotherapeutic skills.

They recommend additional larger studies to confirm the value of acupuncture in these sorts of cases. But, they suggest that acupuncture “may offer a simple and inexpensive method of treatment.”

“Acupuncture in the management of anxiety related to dental treatment: a case series”
Palle Rosted, Mads Bundgaard, Sian Gordon, Anne Marie Lynge Pedersen
Acupuncture in Medicine

Written by Stephanie Brunner (B.A.)