The wisdom in wisdom teeth removal has been a contentious topic among dental health professionals. In many cases, the wisdom teeth will pose no problems such that removal is unnecessary. However, the wisdom teeth can grow at various angles in the jaw, emerge partially in the gums, and even remain completely hidden in the gums, all of which can result in dental health issues like impaction.
But wisdom teeth extraction has risks and complications considering that it is an invasive surgery albeit a relatively minor procedure. This is true whether the surgery was carried out for asymptomatic cases – no symptoms like pain are experienced in the region in or near the wisdom tooth –or for symptomatic cases where the patient suffers from considerable pain.
The question then is: Will you benefit from wisdom teeth removal? Let’s look at what the experts have to say on the matter before calling your dentist and insisting – or not insisting, for that matter – on the procedure.
When Conflicting Data Muddle the Issue
The wisdom behind wisdom teeth extraction has no definitive answer mainly because of the conflicting statements from even the dental health professionals themselves. On one hand, Dr. Louis K. Rafetto of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons assert that although verifiable percentages are unavailable, approximately 75 to 80 percent of adults will be unable to successfully maintain their wisdom teeth. Dr. Raymond P. White Jr. of the University Of North Carolina School Of Dentistry agreed with his statement that roughly 60 to 70 percent of individuals with wisdom teeth will eventually have dental health issues.
For these proponents, wisdom teeth removal is a must for most individuals despite the absence of issues related to the third molar, said removal of which is performed as a preventative measure.
On the other hand, numerous comparative and comprehensive reviews of scientific studies suggesting wisdom teeth extraction have revealed that there was no strong evidence to support the procedure on otherwise healthy teeth. These reviews were conducted by independent bodies with no affiliations to oral surgeons.
In fact, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has stopped paying the surgery in cases where there are no valid reasons for it; said move was the result of an analysis conducted by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination that asymptomatic wisdom teeth removal has no solid scientific evidence to support it. Even the American Public Health Association has dismissed the typical arguments for the surgery while also highlighting its risks including possible nerve damage, loss of sense and taste, and complications from anaesthesia.
With such conflicting views, what can an average dental patient do? You must discuss your options with your dentist since each case has unique circumstances befitting unique management approaches.
When You Can Skip on the Procedure
Dental health experts agree, nonetheless, that wisdom teeth removal may be unnecessary in certain cases. If your wisdom teeth are in the following states, then skip on the procedure:
• Grown in completely or fully erupted
• Positioned in the right place
• Biting properly with the tooth opposite it
• Can be cleaned with a toothbrush as part of daily hygiene habits
If you decide against extraction, you must always adopt good dental hygiene practices including regular visits to your dentist to ensure that everything is well with your wisdom teeth.
When You Should Be on the Procedure
Your dentist will recommend wisdom teeth removal in case of:
• Recurrent gum infections
• Irreparable tooth decay
• Damage to the nearby teeth and bone
You should ask your dentist about the reasons for the procedure before actually consenting to it. Keep in mind that your wisdom teeth may grow in successfully, thus, eliminating the necessity for its removal. Even in cases of infection or inflammation, your dentist may recommend less invasive treatments with wisdom tooth extraction as the last resort.
The bottom line: Wisdom teeth removal is not always a black-and-white decision. You must always talk to your oral surgeon or dentist about the benefits you can enjoy from the procedure.