Acupuncture for dental pain

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = B
Acupuncture appears to be effective in alleviating dental pain.

A systematic review 1 including 16 studies with a total of 941 subjects was abstracted in DARE. Ten of the sixteen studies suggest that acupuncture is more effective than control treatments. Four studies suggest that there is no difference, and 2 studies show that acupuncture is less effective than other treatments. Of 8 RCTs that used some kind of blinding, 7 were positive and only one was negative. Of 7 sham-controlled RCTs, 6 were positive.

Another systematic review 2 including 15 RCTs with a total of 834 subjects was abstracted in DARE. 11 out of the 15 studies were in favour of acupuncture. Four studies demonstrated no effect. Of the seven studies assessing acupuncture as an analgesia in extraction of teeth, 4 met validity criteria (n= 179). Of these, 3 favoured acupuncture. Of the 4 studies assessing acupuncture for facial pain and temporomandibular dysfunction all demonstrated a positive effect.

Comment: The quality of evidence is downgraded by potential reporting bias.


1. Ernst E, Pittler MH. The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating acute dental pain: a systematic review. Br Dent J 1998 May 9;184(9):443-7.  [PMID:9617000]
2. Rosted P. The use of acupuncture in dentistry: a review of the scientific validity of published papers. Oral Dis 1998 Jun;4(2):100-4.  [PMID:9680898]

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