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Br Dent J. 2006 Dec 9;201(11):721-5; discussion 715.

The use of acupuncture in controlling the gag reflex in patients requiring an upper alginate impression: an audit.

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Department of Onchology, Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield, UK.



A pronounced gag reflex (GR) can be a problem to both the acceptance and delivery of dental treatment. Despite a range of management strategies, some patients cannot accept even simple dental treatment. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of acupuncture point CV-24 in controlling a profound gag reflex during dental treatment requiring an upper alginate impression.


Members of the British Dental Acupuncture Society were invited to take part in an audit of the role of acupuncture point CV-24 in controlling the gag reflex. They were issued with patient inclusion criteria, a standardised procedure instruction sheet and a recording form. All patients fulfilling the inclusion criteria had an upper dental alginate impression taken (or an attempt made at it) before acupuncture, and a second upper alginate impression taken immediately after acupuncture of point CV-24. The GR assessment was undertaken prior to insertion of the acupuncture needle using the Gagging Severity Index (GSI); and after the acupuncture and impression taking using the Gagging Prevention Index (GPI). Both the GSI and GPI were recorded at three stages of the dental impression taking procedure, ie, when the empty impression tray was tried in the mouth, when the loaded tray was inserted into the mouth, and on completion of the impression taking.


Twenty-one dentists submitted 64 case reports of which 37 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Prior to acupuncture all 37 patients (20 females and 17 males with a mean age of 46.8 years) were unable to accept the impression taking. After acupuncture of point CV-24, an improvement of between 51-55% (mean 53%) for the three stages of impression taking was noticed. Thirty patients (81%) were able to accept the impression taking, whereas seven (19%) remained unable to tolerate the procedure. Assessed by the GSI and GPI, there was a significant decrease in GR scores at all three stages of the impression taking procedure (median 3 vs 1; 4 vs 2; 4 vs 2; p < 0.0001). Thus before acupuncture, the patients had moderate to severe GR and after acupuncture the GR had reduced to a level which only complicated dental treatment slightly.


Our results indicate that acupuncture of point CV-24 is an effective method of controlling severe GR during dental treatment including impression taking. However, the results of the current audit need to be tested in a randomised controlled study in order to substantiate the effectiveness of this method.

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