Acupuncture – taking the fear out of a dentist’s visit or operation.

acupuncture dentistMost of us feel mildly uncomfortable, if not outright apprehensive, at the thought of a dental procedure or surgical operation. For example, surveys show that around one in five of us are very afraid of dentist visits. This fear can lead us to postpone dental treatment to the point where problems start to build up and we end up needing more work done than we might otherwise. Ouch…!

Poor dental health actually reduces our overall health too – it has been linked to heart disease and dementia – so this situation affects more than just our mouths.

Before operations, up to 70% of us feel anxious, and understandably so. But that anxiety can be counter-productive if it is severe or leads us to avoid procedures we really need.

What if there was a drug-free way to feel less anxious, more relaxed, more in control in these situations?

There is – Acupuncture. Two recent studies looked at the impact of Acupuncture on anxiety before operations and dentist visits.

The first looked at the effect of Acupuncture on surgical anxiety. The study was a “meta-analysis”, meaning that it reviewed all relevant and acceptable studies on this topic. It found that patients who had real Acupuncture just before their operation were significantly less anxious than those who had “sham” Acupuncture (where the researchers used points on the body that are not Acupuncture points or they did not actually insert a needle). One of the trials suggested that preoperative Acupuncture was just as effective as a commonly used anti-anxiety medication, although the number of people in that study was too small to be sure.

The second study looked at how Acupuncture affects anxiety at the dentists. In this trial, the researchers used Acupuncture on points on the ear, comparing real with sham Acupuncture. The volunteers had Acupuncture shortly before their dentist appointment. Real Acupuncture led to a significantly greater reduction in anxiety than did sham Acupuncture in patients waiting to see the dentist. In contrast, a control group who did not have any anxiety-relieving treatment became more anxious as they waited to be called by the dentist, as you might have experienced yourself!

The use of ear points in this study is interesting, as in practice, acupuncturists can retain tiny needles or small ball bearings (affixed to tape so they will not drop off) at these points. This means that the needles or balls are still in place when you go into the dentist’s so you can stimulate them yourself by pressing them to boost the calming effect.

So if you have been putting off that dentist visit or operation, do so no longer! Acupuncture just before the procedure (or if ear seeds are used, up to a few days before) could make it a much more relaxing experience. I would suggest a couple of sessions prior to the procedure so that the points can be individualised for you for maximum benefit.