Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of needles in the body. Its proponents variously claim that it relieves pain, treats infertility, treats disease, prevents disease, or promotes general health.
The evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness for anything but the relief of some types of pain and nausea has not been established. In the case of nausea, systematic reviews have concluded that acupuncture is no more effective than nonpenetrating stimulation of one point to reduce some types of nausea. Although evidence exists for a very small and short-lived effect on some types of pain, several review articles discussing the effectiveness of acupuncture have concluded it is a placebo effect. A 2011 review of review articles concluded that, except for neck pain, acupuncture was of doubtful efficacy in the treatment of pain and accompanied by small but serious risks and adverse effects including death, particularly when performed by untrained practitioners. There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles.
Acupuncture needles stuck into two strategic spots on the head may reduce anxiety levels of highly nervous dental patients, new research indicates.
The needles induce relaxation and reduce fear of dental equipment that all but paralyzes some people facing dental treatments, say researchers from England and Denmark.
Dentists trained in the use of acupuncture carried out the experiments, and average BAI scores fell to 11.5 from 26.5. The acupuncture treatments worked so well that all 20 people managed to have their dental procedures carried out.
The authors write that about 5% of patients in the U.S. and Europe have severe dental anxiety of dental instruments called odontiatophobia and 20%-30% report moderate anxiety. Several techniques had been used to help patients overcome their fear of dental treatments, such as relaxation therapy, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Those techniques may work, but they are time consuming and require psychotherapeutic skills.
The authors conclude that acupuncture "prior to dental treatment has a beneficial effect on the level of anxiety in patients with dental anxiety and may offer a simple and inexpensive method of treatment."