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Clin Oral Investig. 2012 Dec;16(6):1517-22. doi: 10.1007/s00784-011-0662-4. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

Auricular acupuncture effectively reduces state anxiety before dental treatment--a randomised controlled trial.

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Department of Special Anaesthesia and Pain Therapy, Medical University of Vienna, Austria, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, 1090 Vienna, Austria.



The objective of this study was to analyse whether auricular acupuncture, acupuncture at the outer ear, could reduce state anxiety before dental treatment.


This prospective, randomised patient-blinded study with 182 patients compared anxiety before dental treatment following auricular acupuncture at the relaxation-, tranquillizer- and master cerebral points (auricular acupuncture group) versus acupuncture at sham points (finger-, shoulder- and tonsil points; sham group) and a non-intervention control group. Anxiety was assessed using the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory (German version) before auricular acupuncture and 20 min thereafter, immediately before dental treatment.


Auricular acupuncture reduced state anxiety score more effectively from 54.7 ± 10.8 to 46.9 ± 10.4 (mean ± SD) than sham acupuncture from 51.9 ± 10.2 to 48.4 ± 10.0. In contrast, state anxiety in the control group increased from 51.0 ± 11.7 to 54.0 ± 11.6 (mean increase +3.0; CI +4.7 to +1.2). The decrease in state anxiety in both intervention groups was statistically significant (p < 0.001) when compared to the non-intervention control group. After correcting for group differences in baseline state anxiety, the reduction in anxiety was -7.3 score points (CI -9.0 to -5.6) in the auricular acupuncture group and -3.7 score points (CI -5.4 to -1.9) in the sham group (p = 0.008).


Auricular acupuncture, a minimally invasive method, effectively reduces state anxiety before dental treatment.


Auricular acupuncture could be an option for patients scheduled for dental treatment, who experience an uncomfortable degree of anxiety and request an acute intervention for their anxiety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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