Can Acupuncture Treat Dental Pain?
It's difficult to focus on anything else when your mouth hurts. Although medication can ease your pain, drowsiness, nausea, and other unpleasant side effects may make it difficult to function while you're under the influence of painkillers. Fortunately, acupuncture offers drug-free relief for several types of oral pain.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Pain?
Acupuncture treatment keeps Qi, the life force necessary for good physical and mental health, flowing freely through your body through a network of meridians. Qi blockages can trigger pain and cause headaches, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders, infertility, and other conditions. Acupuncturist clear blockages by inserting hair-thin needles in your body at strategic locations. In some cases, a gentle electric current will be attached to the needles to enhance the effects of the treatment. Once Qi begins to flow normally, symptoms improve.
If you have dental pain, your acupuncturist may put the needles in your head, neck, ear, arm or leg before or after dental treatments. Acupuncture treatment alters nervous system signals that transmit pain, improves blood flow, decreases muscle spasms, and triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin, your body's natural painkillers.
What Types of Dental Problems Does Acupuncture Help?
Opioid medications are often used to manage pain after wisdom tooth extractions, bone grafts and other types of oral surgery. Although these medications control pain, they can cause nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness and make focusing at work or school difficult. Acupuncture treatment effectively relieves post-procedure pain, allowing you to forego prescription medications entirely or significantly decrease the dosage needed to control your pain.
Acupuncture may also relieve the pain of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). TMJ affects the hinge joints on either side of your jaw, causing muscle spasms and chronic pain in your jaw, face, and ears. Pain can worsen when you chew or move your mouth. Your jaw may also lock temporarily when you attempt to open or close your mouth. The treatment reduces spasms and eases pressure on your joints.
The therapy may also be helpful in managing:
- Orthodontic Adjustment Pain. Periodic adjustments to brace wires are a crucial part of orthodontic treatment if you wear metal or ceramic braces. Unfortunately, pain can be a problem for a day or two after adjustments. Acupuncture treatment offers a simple way to prevent adjustment pain.
- Gagging. Putty impressions used to create crowns, bridges, and other restorations can trigger the gag reflex in some people, preventing them from restoring damaged or missing teeth. Acupuncture treatment may make impressions less uncomfortable. Patients who participated in an acupuncture study published in the European Journal of General Dentistry were better able to tolerate impressions after acupuncture needles were placed in their ears.
- Trauma. A blow to the face or an injury caused by an auto accident or fall can injure teeth or the sensitive tissues in the mouth. Acupuncture offers an effective pain relief method if you injure your mouth or teeth.
- Dry Mouth. Saliva keeps your mouth moist and comfortable and helps wash away cavity-causing plaque. Acupuncture treatment may increase saliva production and reduce uncomfortable dry mouth symptoms.
- Dental Anxiety. Treatments can also decrease dental anxiety, a condition that may prevent you from receiving the care you need. In a case series published in Acupuncture in Medicine, British researchers examined 21 case reports and discovered that acupuncture had a beneficial effect on anxiety in patients with moderate to severe anxiety. Thanks to acupuncture, you may no longer need to take sedatives before a trip to the dentist.
Are you interested in trying acupuncture to manage your dental pain? Contact us to schedule a consultation.