One of my patients recently needed gum surgery and was in a lot of pain after the procedure. Her dentist prescribed pain killers but my colleague said that she did not like to take medications. I offered her an acupuncture treatment and during the treatment she said that felt significantly more comfortable, relaxed and had less pain. I spoke to her a couple days later and she said that the day after acupuncture she had minimal dental pain and was able to avoid taking pain medication altogether. I was glad that the acupuncture treatment had been so helpful and I decided to take this opportunity to do some research regarding this subject since it appears that most Americans are unaware of acupuncture’s effectiveness for dental pain.

Research regarding acupuncture for the treatment of dental pain appears to have started in the West in the early to mid 1970’s but has been a part of Chinese medicine for centuries. Most research in the west found acupuncture to be effective for dental pain, as well as for temperomandibular joint pain (TMJ) and post surgical dental pain. Two important review articles that are still referenced today concerning dental pain and acupuncture were published in 1998 by Ernst & Pittler and in 2002 by Ted Kaptchuk. The investigators from these two review articles found that out of sixteen acupuncture trials for the treatment of dental pain, twelve of these trials had adequate methodology and concluded that “good evidence exists that acupuncture is effective for relieving dental pain.”

In my practice I have found acupuncture to be helpful in managing dental pain. Many patients have described acupuncture to be effective in minimizing acute dental pain and others have acquired pain relief while waiting for their dentist to perform a root canal. You may wish to consider acupuncture for post surgical dental pain especially if you are sensitive or allergic to analgesics or like my colleague, prefer to avoid pain medications altogether. Try using plain clove oil for tooth pain or our mouthwash formula made from Chinese herbs that is helpful for gingivitis, mouth sores and thrush.

References

  • 1. Ernst E, Pittler MH: The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating acute dental pain: a systematic review Br Dent J 1998, 184:443-447
  • 2. Ernst E, White AR: Acupuncture as a treatment for temporomandibular joint dysfunction. A systematic review of randomized trials Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1999, 125:269-272
  • 3. Kaptchuk, T: Acupuncture: Theory, Efficacy, and Practice. Ann Intern Med. 2002; 136:374-383.
  • 4. Lao, L., Bergman, S., Hamilton, G., Langenberg., Berman, B., Evaluation of acupuncture for pain control after oral surgery, a placebo controlled trial. Arch Otolaryngol Head and Neck Surg. 1999; 125:567-572.
  • 5. Rosted P. The use of acupuncture in dentistry: a review of the scientific validity of published papers. Oral Dis. 1998;4:100-4.

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