By: Michelle Alford for Dental1
Nearly a third of the Western World suffers from dental anxiety. Dentists fight this condition with massage chairs, soothing music, and other distractions, but a small study published in the March 2010 edition of Acupuncture in Medicine suggests that a five-minute session of acupuncture before dental treatment may be the best solution.
Dr. Palle Rosted of Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, England, and his colleagues used the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) to measure the anxiety of 20 patients before and after undergoing a five-minute acupuncture treatment. All patients had suffered from moderate to severe dental anxiety (a BAI score greater than 16) for between two and thirty years. Fourteen of the patients had canceled their previous appointments, and the remaining six weren’t able to make it through the entire procedure.
When each of the 20 patients rescheduled their appointments, their dentists suggested acupuncture as a way to calm their nerves. The acupuncture needles were inserted in two locations at the top of the patients’ heads by their dentists, who were also licensed acupuncturists, and were not removed until after the dental procedures.
The patients’ average BAI score decreased from 26.5 to 11.5 and all twenty patients were able to undergo their scheduled dental treatments. The dentists’ average level of anxiety also significantly decreased. Though not the first suggested treatment for dental anxiety, Rosted and his colleagues believe that it’s a better solution than behavioral therapies, sedatives, relaxation techniques, or hypnosis because it’s less time-consuming, less expensive, and has fewer side effects.
While their results aren’t yet conclusive, Rosted and his colleagues believe that a larger study will confirm the value of acupuncture in decreasing dental anxiety. Read the Acupuncture in Medicine abstract Discuss it in the forums