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Acupuncture Could Ease Dental Fear




By Margarita Nahapetyan

Acupuncture can prove helpful in the management of the stress and could significantly reduce anxiety that is associated with dental treatment, scientists from the United Kingdom and Denmark have revealed.

It is estimated that severe dental anxiety, known as odontiatophobia, affects approximately 5 per cent of individuals in Western countries, with another 20 to 30 per cent having moderate anxiety. A number of techniques has been used in order to help people overcome their fear of dental treatments, such as relaxation therapy, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Some of these techniques may be really helpful, but professionals say that they are time consuming and require considerable levels of skills to use properly.

In a new small study, the treatment of acupuncture was performed in 20 patients - 16 women and 4 men - from eight different dental practices. The average age of all the patients was about 40 years old. Each of them was moderately or extremely nervous about going to a dentist for treatment, as reported in a validated questionnaire, called the Back Anxiety Inventory (BAI).

According to these questionnaires, on previous visits to the dentist, 3 patients had reported requiring general anesthetic to be able to handle their anxiety and fears, while in six others the treatment was started but not completed. In 14 other cases, the doctor had to cancel the treatment because the patient could not even sit in the chair. Seven of the patients had agreed to come back for minor dental procedures, such as cleaning, and thirteen had returned for a dental screening.

When the patients arrived for their new appointments, they were offered the procedure of acupuncture to make them feel more relaxed. Five minutes before dental treatment, needles were administered, targeting two specific acupuncture points (GV20 and EX6) on the top of the head. Professionals say that these points are very effective when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety. The needles remained applied throughout the treatment. The acupuncture was performed by the dentists themselves, all of whom are members of the British Dental Acupuncture Society.

When the results were assessed, it was revealed that the average BAI scores of the patients that were recorded before and five minutes after acupuncture treatment, fell from 26.5 to 11.5. The acupuncture treatments were so effective that all 20 patients were able to have their dental procedures completely carried out. Researchers from Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield believe that acupuncture may become a simple and inexpensive method of dental treatment although they cautioned that more studies involving larger numbers of participants were needed in order to confirm the value of acupuncture in these sorts of cases.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture has proved beneficial for a variety of different aches and pains, including carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, headache, low-back pain, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, tennis elbow and also post-operative dental pain. Therefore, the experts say that if acupuncture can be helpful in some of the above mentioned issues, it might be able to ease anxiety and stress, which is ultimately the pain of the mind.

The study is published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.



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