Acupuncture for Post Surgical Dental Pain – Houston, TX

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.


  • 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.

Patients Are Customers

In many ways we should consider ourselves healthcare customers. We are customers with our doctors just like we are customers in a restaurant or store. There are certain ways we expect to be treated. If we don’t like the service in a restaurant or how a salesperson has spoken to us, we have the right to leave and to complain to management. When it comes to healthcare and medicine, I also believe that we can have a say in how we are treated and to ask as many questions as necessary to understand what is being recommended for our care.

I do believe everyone with a new condition or problem should be evaluated by a medical doctor. Western medicine does have the best diagnostic equipment in the world. Western medicine is also the best for emergency medicine.

When there is a non-emergency or chronic condition, we can become advocates in our own healthcare. It’s good to hear what the doctor recommends and take it under consideration. Afterall, the doctor does have your best interests in mind. But the doctor may not be well versed in options that may be less invasive or requiring less medications. This is where we as patients have a right to have a voice in our treatment process.

I believe that one of the many reasons acupuncture has become such a popular option for many, is that in addition to making all kinds of physical problems better, acupuncturists listen to patients and treat them as a whole person. The doctors today who still subscribe to the “my way or the highway” mentality are not the doctors that patients like to go to or speak well of to others.

So, it’s up to us, as healthcare customers to consider all of the options to treat our specific problem. Because there are alternatives and different ways to treat problems, we have to do our research and find out what might work as well or even better and with fewer side effects.

Just because a doctor tells you to take another drug or have asurgery, (it might be that you need to take that drug and have that surgery), you can also wonder and question whether there may be another way to treat the pain or deal with the problem (reflux, depression, hot flashes, migraines, etc). Is it possible to manage or treat the problem without drugs? Can surgery be avoided through acupuncture and physical therapy? Remember, once you cut, you can’t go back. It’s certainly worth trying everything before undergoing anesthesia. So I do think we have to be smart consumers of medical care. It’s about taking responsibility.

We are very lucky in Houston as we have a world class medical center and hospitals and world class doctors. But it’s also ok to have a little healthy skepticism and consider all our options.