Published controlled studies on the analgesic effect of acupuncture in dentistry are still relatively few, but those which fulfil predefined methodological criteria are reviewed to assess if acupuncture is effective in this field. A literature search identified 74 papers published between 1966 and 1996, and 48 are reviewed. Only 15 of the papers fulfil a number of predefined criteria: having a reference group, randomisation, blinding, appropriate statistics, sufficient follow-up, etc. Of the 15 papers only one study meets more than 85% of the criteria, five meet 70–84%, three studies meet 60–69%, and six do not reach 60% of the predefined criteria and are thus considered unreliable.
Eleven out of the 15 studies were in favour of acupuncture and showed standard acupuncture to be more effective than placebo, non-standard (sham) acupuncture, or showed it to be able to produce better or similar results to an accepted treatment procedure. The higher the standard of the paper, the more likely it was to have a positive result in favour of acupuncture: all those in the excellent or good categories gave a favourable result Acupuncture proved effective in 73% of the reviewed papers for the treatment of Temporomandibular dysfunction or as an analgesic, and should be considered as a reasonable alternative or supplement to current dental practice in these areas.
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