Acupuncture Explored as an Alternative Dental Treatment

Patients see plenty of needles when they’re at the dentist’s office. But they may be seeing more, as some dentists explore the use of acupuncture in their work to address dry mouth, dental anxiety, gag reflexes, and even orofacial and postoperative pain. The treatment has evolved throughout the millennia from ancient mysticism to a more modern approach known as battlefield acupuncture (BFA).

“In traditional Chinese acupuncture, placing needles in specific locations of the body would cause a disruption of the bodily energy known as Qi dental vibrator. This in turn helps break down any blockades, allowing normal currents of Qi. These currents flow in 12 pathways known as meridians, 6 yin and 6 yang,” said Tyler Rallison, DMD, a US Air Force captain who discussed the subject during the 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting Table Clinics in Atlanta on March 23.

“In modern Western acupuncture, it’s believed that the placement of the needles in specific locations on the body releases autogenous molecules. These molecules are believed to work directly on the signals of the peripheral and central nervous systems. This aids in pain reduction and increases blood flow tooth scaler australia. The effectiveness may be affected by the location and the depth as well as what type of application you want to apply to those needles,” Rallison said.

Modern acupuncture uses hundreds of points on the body to effect treatment. In 2001, however, Col. Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD, of the Air Force developed the abbreviated BFA technique. Practitioners inject a series of just 5 needles that are about the size of a pencil point—each known as auricular semi-permanent (ASP) needles—into the cingulate gyrus, the thalamus, the omega 2, point zero, and the shenmen, all located on the ear. The injections produce only minor transient discomfort.

“Niemtzow recommends placing the ASP needles in a specific sequence and then stopping at a point when the patient reports adequate pain relief,” said Rallison. “The first part would be the cingulate gyrus. You place that point. You have patients stand up, walk a short distance, come back, and report their pain. Then you go to the other ear, place the same point, and do the same thing. And you’ll go through that with each point.”

The needles are designed to stay where they have been injected for 2 to 4 days before falling out on their own. Niemtzow initially developed the procedure so it could be used on the battlefield when the use of western pain medications wasn’t advisable. Since then, it has been used to assist in the relief of both acute and chronic pain throughout the body, including facial pain, neck pain, and fibromyalgia, in addition to nausea and vomiting.

As for dentistry, in 2005, Morganstein found that regular acupuncture could increase salivary flow in patients who had received head and neck radiation due to cancer. In 2007, Karst et al showed a significant reduction in dental anxiety with acupuncture compared to midazolam and placebo treatments. And in 2010, Sari and Sari demonstrated a 58.9% gag reflex reduction using laser-stimulated acupuncture.How Should I Use A Mouth Rinse? for more information.

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