Pulpitis is a condition where the middle of the tooth, the pulp, stays inflamed causing pain and irritation. There is a reversible condition (more mild) that can be helped with improved oral care and hygiene, and then a irreversible condition (more severe) that can result in widespread gum and connective tissue infections. The irreversible type is generally treated with a root canal procedure or removal of the tooth.
During the dental work an inferior alveolar nerve block is often done to help reduce the pain, but they are not always successful. Due to this low rate of success, a group of researchers from Iran and Washington DC conducted a study evaluating the effects of adding acupuncture anesthesia in with the nerve block to improve the overall pain reduction for the patient.
Using a triple-blinded model, they recruited 40 patients with pulpitis of the irreversible type and divided into two groups - an acupuncture (acupuncture + nerve block) and a control group (nerve block alone). The acupuncture group received acupuncture at LI 4 15 minutes before the nerve block was administered. They then evaluated the patients overall pain by a vareity of tests (chi-square, Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney and t-tests).
Overall the acupuncture had a 60% success rate vs. a 20% success rate for the non-acupuncture group overall. The researchers concluded that "application of acupuncture before the endodontic treatment increased the effectiveness of IANBs for mandibular molars with symptomatic irreversible pulpitis."
Studies like this are very important to begin to better understand how to utilize acupuncture as much as possible in a broad range of surgical situations to decrease the amount anesthesia used. Overall this has the potential to increase patient safety, comfort and cost effectiveness.
( Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferior_alveolar_artery )
This post has the following associations:
Issues/Symptoms: root canal
Acupoints: li 4
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