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Q:  I have been suffering from mouth ulcers for many years. I have been referred to the hospital but they just sent me away saying there was nothing they could do. The ulcers are not always in the same place in my mouth, and I very rarely have a time where there isn't at least one active. Most of them I can live with however the occasional few in an awkward place really bring me down. I read somewhere that acupuncture may help, is this true? 

 

A:  Mouth ulcers are, like all problems on the head, very difficult to put out of one's mind.
 
There is some evidence from small studies in China such as
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16541857
 
and
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16318148
 
that acupuncture may be of benefit. Indeed the first of these two studies is very much within the framework of Chinese medicine, specifying as it does a particular energetic disturbance as the cause of the mouth ulcers. Overall, however, there simply haven't been enough studies for anyone to draw conclusions about how successful acupuncture treatment might be.
 
This is one of the conditions, in fact, where most practitioners will probably fall back on the underlying premise of the older systems of Chinese medicine, that a system in balance did not generate symptoms, and work on the basis of re-establishing balance to eradicate symptoms. If this is what they choose to do, then it is very important to set clear outcome measures and review periods in place. Many people enjoy the encounter with their acupuncturist and can sometimes forget that they have been for ten sessions without any discernible change.  That said, there are one of two specific energetic disturbances where it is possible that acupuncture treatment mght have a direct effect, and it would be well worthwhile visiting a BAcC member local to you for face to face advice.
 
  

 

Q:  I had 2 lower wisdom teeth, both having formed cysts, removed from my lower jaw in January. I'm still experiencing discomfort which is aggravated by talking. The maxillo facial surgeon has told me that  there is nothing wrong and that I must be patient.  Would acupuncure help?

 

A:

While a great deal of the early research into acupuncture was about pain reduction, as our factsheet shows please click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

a great many of the studies target specific pains. There are a number of studies of dental pain please click here

 

 

 

 

which are of sufficient standard for us to be able to advertise that acupuncture can assist dental pain, but the kind of pain from which you suffer is not one which has been specifically described in the studies, and we would be reluctant to say, under the general rubric of 'dental pain' that acupuncture would be of benefit.

 

 

 

It would certainly do no harm to visit a BAcC member local to you and seek their advice on whether they think they may be able to help you. However, another option you may want to consider is cranial osteopathy. One feature of wisdom tooth surgery is that the jaw is often extended very fully while considerable pressure is applied, and the tempero-mandibular joint (TMJ) can easily be slightly dislocated. This might well generate the symptom you describe, and while it is possible that an acupuncturist can provide some relief if there has been displacement of the TMJ the use of gentle manipulation to correct a misalignment may be a good alternative option.   

 

 

 

 

Q: I lost my sense of smell about three years ago, but can still taste. I have see my GP and hospital and have ruled out polyps, tumors etc. The hospital says there is no more they can do as probably an infection wiped out my sense of smell.  I occasionally am able to get a vague smell of some things.  i also suffer with a lot of mucus, but even when this is clear the smell is no different.

 

A: We are not quite clear from your question how best to advise you. Most of what people regard as 'taste' is in fact 'smell', and if someone has lost their sense of smell entirely the range of tastes which they can experience is very limited. If you are able to get a vague smell of things, it may mean that you have a small amount of residual function or it could mean that you are able to remember at some deep level the smells associated with certain foods and your brain is 'filling in the gaps.'
 
There is a frequently cited case study from nearly a decade ago http://aim.bmj.com/content/21/4/153.full.pdf+html
 
which reports the successful treatment of one case, but in all honesty there are very few others, and no substantial evidence suggesting that this has been replicated by other practitioners. Most members have had patients for whom the loss of the sense of small. anosmia, has been a secondary complaint, but we have heard very few reports of great success.
 
That said, the fact that you suffer from a great deal of mucus is something which most practitioners would immediately look at to see whether you did have some residual function but where the physical blockage of over-production of mucus could be affecting your sense of smell. This would be a long shot, and if mucus alone were the causal agent then anything which caused your nasal packages to unblock, like a very hot curry, or a cold which encouraged the expulsion of mucus would probably have left you with an improved sense of smell for a short while.
 
It may be worth you while to visit a BAcC member local to you to ask their advice face to face. If you were to decide to have acupuncture treatment, or indeed any treatment from a complementary medicine practitioner, we would advise you to be very clear about outcomes and reviews of progress. Our experience is that people can rapidly run up considerable costs chasing solutions when there is nothing substantive to suggest the treatment is having any effect, and the responsible practitioner will always draw a clear line in the sand if they are not achieving changes which the patient can experience and which underpin continued treatment. 
  

Q:  I had dental surgery about 7/8 years ago and it has left me with continuous pain/discomfort. I have various and extensive treatment ranging from root canal - physiotherapy - anti depressants (for transgeminal? neuralgia) and a host of other. I am now waiting to see yet another consultant but would like to investigate alternatives myself. I really feel that the problem is nerve damage as the original extraction was very lengthy and tricky but I am reluctant to try the drugs again as I have already tried this for over a year and the side effects were unpleasant.
Any guidance would be appreciated

 

A:  We're sorry to hear about your problem. Dental pain, because it is too 'close in' to shut off, can cause long-term distress and depression.
 
Oddly enough, in spite of the much more severe restrictions now in force about what advertisers and marketers can say, dental pain is one of the small number of conditions for which acupuncture is accepted as a viable and evidence-based treatment. Ironically the main providers of dental acupuncture, the British Dental Acupuncture Society, use it less for pain and anxiety than to control the gagging reflex, but there is no doubt that acupuncture can reduce pain after dental work.
 
However, while not diverting you from treatment, one situation which we find quite often is that aggressive and lengthy dental work, where the mouth is held open for a long time and considerable force is applied to extract or to work on teeth, can cause all sorts of problems in the tempero-mandibular joints, and our colleagues in the osteopathy profession, especially those who practise cranial osteopathy, tell us that this is a condition which they deal with regularly. The joint is not a very fixed one, as you know from being able to move the jaw very freely, and it is easy for it to become dislocated. This can then put pressure on the trigeminal nerve and create extremely severe pain which is sometimes 'remedied' by further dental work which proves ineffective.
 
Even one of our great detractors concedes that acupuncture may have a role to play in sorting out the structural malfunctions associated with TMJ problems
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10190797
 
and we would certainly be happy to recommend that you seek treatment with one of our members. However, in the view of this 'expert' if you were to present at my clinic I would almost certainly refer you to an osteopath in the first instance to ensure that I did not take half a dozen sessions to effect a change he might make in one. It would not be unusual to get a reciprocal referral after a session or two to encourage the musculature local to the problem to maintain the proper position to which the joint had reverted.
 
We would advise you to contact one of our members to discuss your problem with them. If they felt that there was a case for referral on they would know who locally to you would be best suited to your needs.   
 
 
 

Q: I have lost my saliva glands due to radio therapy treatment for cancer of the nasal plalax. Is acupunture able to restore those cells please. Ive been like this for 8 yaers. I am 84 years old/young. Would appreciate your concidered opinon.

 

A: Our first thought on reading your question was that in the words of the advertisment, 'when it's gone, it's gone.' However, when we did our own research we found three studies:
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21537645
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8762876
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19734380
 
which seemed to show that there may be some possibility that acupuncture could help the condition called xerostomia, the techinical name for dryness arising from lack of saliva. Of course, three studies of this size are a long way short of the proof and evidence that we would need to be able to make any definite claims about the likelihood that treatment would offer a benefit, but it has at least confirmed for us that it might not be impossible.
 
Our advice to you is to visit a BAcC local to you and discuss the specifics of your problem with them. In particular, if you decide to have treatment you should ensure that there are some very specific outcomes that you can measure and that you review progress regularly. It is very easy to spend a great deal of time and money pursuing a solution when nothing is actually happening, and being clear from the outset about targets and reviews is the best advice we can give.

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