I remember getting my wisdom teeth extracted eons ago. It was the first
time I had ever been under general anesthesia. I wasn’t having any
problems with my wisdom teeth, but getting them extracted was just what
everyone did. Well, even today it is the norm to pull asymptomatic wisdom
teeth (impacted or partially grown in). Many dentists and dental associations
recommend removing wisdom teeth because of the problems they could cause.
The thing is, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support that belief.
All sorts of alarming percentages are bandied about in regards to the potential
problems of keeping one’s wisdom teeth. Some believe nearly 70 percent
of patients will develop problems associated with wisdom teeth. Even the
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons published a statement
that some 80 percent of young adults who chose to keep their wisdom teeth
ended up having issues within seven years, and that the majority of them
ended up having to have them removed. The association was unable to back
up these claims with evidence, however.
No randomized clinical trial to determine the actual need for wisdom teeth
extraction seems to have been conducted. Other countries, however, have
implemented studies that provide some alternate information. A Greek study
of more than 6,000 patients discovered that only a small percentage, less
than 3 percent, of patients developed a tumor or cyst around impacted
wisdom teeth, far fewer than experts would have us believe.
More organizations, including the American Public Health Association, are
starting to question the wisdom of extracting impacted wisdom teeth. Routine
removal carries more risks, it seems, than waiting until a patient develops
problems. Surgery can cause nerve damage or loss of feeling, loss of sense
of taste, infection, complications with anesthesia, and other problems.
Those risks, the association believes, outweigh the arguments in favor
of extraction, such as the possibility that surrounding teeth will become
damaged or that the wisdom teeth might have bacteria and thus lead to
This is not to say that you should not have wisdom teeth removed. Just
be informed, ask questions, and make sure it is necessary and not just routine!
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