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Relieving Radiation-Induced Xerostomia with Acupuncture

Can acupuncture prevent and/or relieve radiation-induced xerostomia, an adverse effect among patients with head and neck cancer undergoing radiation therapy? That is the question that a group of researchers set out to explore in a randomized clinical trial of 339 patients who received acupuncture while they underwent radiotherapy. .

The results of the trial indicated that the xerostomia score of the true acupuncture group was significantly lower than that of the standard care control group. These findings suggest that acupuncture should be considered for the prevention of radiation-induced xerostomia, but further studies are needed to confirm their clinical relevance and generalizability.

We have invited Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, a member of the research group and the corresponding author for the study, to explain further how acupuncture could be an additional approach in dealing with radiation-induced xerostomia. Dr. Cohen is Professor in the Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine and Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center.

I hope you you find the conversation interesting and helpful. We always look forward to hearing your thoughts and receiving your questions and/or suggestions about this post and other topics. Leave a comment in the box below or send us your feedback by email.

Until next time!
Chiraz Guessaier, CDA Oasis Manager

Resource: Effect of True and Sham Acupuncture on Radiation-Induced Xerostomia Among Patients With Head and Neck Cancer. A Randomized Clinical Trial

Listen to the Full Conversation (11.02")

Oasis Moment (1.49")

Full Conversation (11.02")


  1. Anonymous March 5, 2020

    I am quite disappointed in the CDA for allowing pseudo-scientific and alternative medicine article to be published on its platform. How are we allowing this, as a so-called science-based profession?

    Acupuncture is magic, not science. Please read more about its efficency here:


    We need a more rigorous approach in what we are allowing to be publish here.

    Dr. S.

    1. CDA Oasis March 6, 2020

      Hello Dr. S.
      Thank you for reaching out and posting your comment on CDA Oasis. I have just approved it. Publishing an article on CDA Oasis doesn’t reflect CDA’s position on a given topic. CDA Oasis aims at keeping Canadian dentists informed about everything that is pertinent to the profession of dentistry and which may have an impact on clinical treatment and/or dentist-patient communication. This article was published in that vein, trying to let Canadian dentists know that research in this area is being conducted and we would like them to be aware of what it is and where it stands. We firmly believe that Canadian oral health professionals are capable of making their own informed clinical and professional decisions. Our role is to provide them with information to accomplish that.
      I hope this answers your comment.
      With best regards,
      CDA Oasis Team

  2. Anonymous March 6, 2020

    Acupuncture, sticking a needle into a mythical “meridian point” is not science. This is yet another attempt to study it scientifically.

    Medicine and Dentistry are supposedly underpinned by science.

    We are constantly being reminded that we are to follow Evidenced-Based Knowledge…and oh how it rolls off the tongue. Yet not all do. Even PhD.s succumb to self-delusion for a variety of reasons.

    Okay, for a moment, let us grant that the group subjected to “True Acupuncture” (their term), subjectively experienced less xerostomia. What is missing in the presentation and paper is by what mechanism does acupuncture affect an improvement in xerostomia?

    The actual flow or quality of saliva was not quantified. Much discussion in the article is given to placebo. We may wholeheartedly embrace placebo, but by itself, placebo will not reduce tooth decay associated with xerostomia.

    A question to contemplate is…”Why is it that a frequent contributor to Oasis, Dr. Tom Shakelton, does not mention acupuncture in his post on Xerostomia?”

    When I sought the advice of treatment options for xerostomia with dentists at Princess Margret Hospital, a leading cancer treatment facility, why is acupuncture not mentioned? Was their opinion sought before posting this presentation?

    I once viewed a documentary on acupuncture. A Caucasian American researcher at first was excited about acupuncture on the basis that he was able to elevate the serum levels of beta-endorphins (endogenous opioids) in rabbits subjected to acupuncture. He lost faith in acupuncture when he found that merely slapping the behind of a rabbit resulted in the same elevation of the same endorphins.

    We may disparage Big Pharma in the West, but we should be cognizant of Big Placebo. I am fully aware that pain perception and appreciation is still a mysterious topic. Placebo effects are valuable, if they are non-invasive and benign and used in conjunction with Evidence-Based protocols to control disease. Worrisome is when patients deny themselves conventional treatment for a serious illness to pursue some form of quackery. Or worse yet, licensed caregivers who promote treatment based on unsubstantiated nonsense.

  3. Dennis Carrington March 13, 2020

    Great ! You once viewed a documentary about slapping rabbits behinds and are now educated enough to discourage what might well serve those unfortunate individuals .l would encourage you to delve a little deeper into what might at first glance look questionable but may well be useful .We are privileged to be trusted and must not follow expensive “ fairy dust” for our patients however a primum non nocere open mind could well be applicable here .

  4. Dennis Carrington March 13, 2020

    I really appreciate this forum for discussion in expanding our ability to continue to expand our professional capital , however,to infer quackery to an ancient viable modality and disparage colleagues is unwarranted .


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