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Toothache and Post-Extraction Pain: Acupuncture Treatment



Toothache is one of the most effectively treated conditions with acupuncture, as evidenced by numerous clinical observations and research studies worldwide. Dry needling, with its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, is particularly effective for toothaches caused by inflammation or post-extraction pain.


Acupuncture is most effective for pain caused by gingivitis and periodontitis, and somewhat less so for pulpitis. However, it's not effective for acute purulent pulpitis. The relief of toothache following acupuncture is believed to result from changes in hemodynamics at the inflammation site, leading to reduced swelling and decreased action of pain-inducing biochemical substances. For toothaches caused by cavities, acupuncture can only provide temporary pain relief.


Thus, the patient's response to acupuncture can help infer the cause of the toothache. If the pain relief is only temporary, the cause might be cavities or localized purulent inflammation.

Before acupuncture, it's crucial to alleviate the patient's anxiety, as tension can affect the effectiveness of acupuncture analgesia.


In dental pain management, Hegu (LI4) is one of the most renowned effective points. For purely neuralgic tooth pain, distant points like Hegu are usually sufficient. However, for toothaches with significant local inflammation, local points on the same side of the face, such as Xiaguan, tend to be more effective.


For dental pain relief, manual acupuncture is generally sufficient. Identifying reflective or sensitive points can easily produce a strong needle sensation and effectiveness. Sometimes, acupressure can replace needling.


The mechanism of acupuncture's analgesic effect on toothache is representative of the broader study of acupuncture's pain relief mechanisms. The involvement of the endogenous opioid system has been demonstrated in many studies. Acupuncture not only relieves pain and inflammation but also can inhibit stress responses caused by pain, such as increases in arterial blood pressure and changes in blood catecholamine and ACTH levels.

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