New UK research suggests that acupuncture could be a potential treatment for those who experience dental anxiety.
Carried out by researchers at the University of York, the team reviewed six trials with a total of 800 patients to assess the effect of the traditional Chinese treatment on dental anxiety.
The condition affects up to an estimated 30% of adults worldwide and can be brought on by a variety of fears including being afraid of needles, experiencing pain, or experiencing side effects from anesthetic.
Symptoms include nausea, difficulty breathing, and dizziness, which can occur at the thought of going to the dentist, during an examination, and following treatment.
For the review the researchers measured dental anxiety using a point scale and compared the anxiety levels between patients who received acupuncture and those who did not.
They found that receiving acupuncture decreased anxiety by eight points, a reduction big enough to be considered clinically relevant, suggesting that acupuncture could potentially be an effective treatment for dental anxiety.
Hugh MacPherson, professor of Acupuncture at the University of York commented on the findings saying, “There is increasing scientific interest in the effectiveness of acupuncture either as a standalone treatment or as an accompanying treatment to more traditional medications.”
However, he noted that no conclusions can be drawn yet, adding that, “These are interesting findings, but we need more trials that measure the impact of acupuncture on anxiety before going to the dentist, during treatment and after treatment.
“If acupuncture is to be integrated into dental practices, or for use in other cases of extreme anxiety, then there needs to be more high quality research that demonstrates that it can have a lasting impact on the patient. Early indications look positive, but there is still more work to be done.”
Previous research has also suggested that acupuncture could be effective in treating a variety of other conditions including period pain, chronic pain, hot flashes associated with the menopause, and aid weight loss.
The results can be found published online in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine.