According to a new study published in the British Dental Journal, stimulation of an acupuncture point on the ear prior to undergoing dental treatment effectively controls the gag reflex, allowing dentists to perform a variety of procedures without compromising the patient's safety and comfort.
The British study considered ear acupuncture a quick and cost-effective adjunctive to dental care. The researchers estimated an added cost of only 29 cents per person per treatment episode, and an additional treatment time of only 2-3 minutes per episode.
"The technique of ear acupuncture is relatively non-invasive," they wrote. "It causes little discomfort, is cheap and requires little additional time. The patient is unaffected by the technique, does not require an escort, and can return to normal daily activities after treatment."
Some health experts estimate that up to half of all American adults will not seek dental care for fear of going to the dentist. Many patients particularly sensitive to dental equipment will gag uncontrollably when an instrument is placed in their mouth or at the mere thought of a dental treatment.
Patients who are overly sensitive to dental work are usually forced to choose one of two options. Many patients chose sedation or general anesthesia, which drives up the cost of care, carries a wide range of potential side-effects, and can render patients incapacitated for several hours following treatment. Others simply chose not to see the dentist at all, which brings with it numerous personal health and hygiene problems.
For more information on this study, please reference the June 9th issue of the British Dental Journal (2001; 190 (11): 611-613). For more information on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, please contact Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at (800) 729-0941.