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Research: Acupuncture helps ease dental anxiety

By Allen Cone
Research: Acupuncture helps ease dental anxiety
A Chinese dentist works on a patient in Kaili, a small city in Guizhou Province, on May 6, 2015. Patients with anxiety of dental procures might finds relief with acupuncture, according to a review of research. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

May 1 (UPI) -- Acupuncture could help reduce people's anxiety about going to the dentist, according to a review of research.

Researchers reviewed six trials involving 800 patients and found that when dental patients received acupuncture as a treatment, their anxiety reduced by eight points on an 80-point scale. The findings were published this week in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine.

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About 30 percent of adults have some form of dental anxiety, which includes nausea, difficulty breathing and dizziness about going to the dentist, during an examination and after treatment, according to a 2015 survey by the American Dental Association. Eight percent of them face the anxiety "very often."

In previous clinical trials, acupuncture treatments alleviated lower back pain, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

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"There is increasing scientific interest in the effectiveness of acupuncture either as a standalone treatment or as an accompanying treatment to more traditional medications," Dr. Hugh MacPherson, a professor at the University of York's Department of Health Sciences in Britain, said in a press release.

"Chronic pain is often a symptom of a long-term condition, so to further our understanding of the various uses of acupuncture we wanted to see what it could achieve for conditions that occur suddenly, rapidly and as a reaction to particular experiences."

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The researchers found limited information on the impact on specific cases of anxiety.

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They found more than 120 trials in England, China, Spain, Portugal and Germany on the effects of acupuncture on patients with dental anxiety through 2017. Six trials with 249 participants were eligible for review and demonstrated high-quality methods, the researchers said.

The results comparing acupuncture and a placebo were promising but MacPherson said more research is needed.

"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," he said. "Early indications look positive, but there is still more work to be done."

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