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Wisdom Teeth Removal Often Unnecessary

Study: Taking Out Symptom-Free Wisdom Teeth Neither Helps nor Hurts Health
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WebMD Health News

May 5, 2005 -- Teens often have their wisdom teeth removed. But there's no evidence this painful procedure prevents future trouble.

That's the conclusion of a careful review of dental studies by a research team including Dirk G. Mettes, DMD, of Radboud University Medical Center in, Nijmegen, Netherlands. Although Mettes and colleagues looked at 40 studies, they found only two controlled clinical trials of wisdom tooth removal.

The bottom line: If impacted wisdom teeth are not causing trouble, there's no evidence that removing them helps or hurts future health. But there is some evidence that removing teens' impacted wisdom teeth "to reduce or prevent late incisor crowding cannot be justified," the researchers conclude.

Wisdom Tooth Removal: Surgery, Not a Rite of Passage

How controversial is it to remove wisdom teeth that aren't currently causing problems? Two dentists who spoke with WebMD agree that there's no reason to remove perfectly healthy wisdom teeth. Both agree that troublesome wisdom teeth should be removed. And both say that there has to be a medical reason to perform such a serious surgery.

Eric K. Curtis, DDS, spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry and a private-practice dentist in Safford, Ariz., says it comes down to what an individual dentist thinks is best for an individual patient.

"In my practice, about 75% of the asymptomatic (without symptoms), impacted wisdom teeth I see I take out," Curtis tells WebMD. "It is subjective. There is no decision tree to tell us, 'If this happens, take the tooth out,' or 'If this happens, leave it in.' It comes down to your own sense of what is right and wrong and to patients' own preferences."

Mohamed Bassiouny, DMD, PhD, professor of dentistry at Temple University -- the oldest dental school in the U.S. -- in June will celebrate his 40th anniversary as a dentist.

But isn't it normal for teen's to have their wisdom teeth removed? Not to Bassiouny.

"It is a shame," Bassiouny tells WebMD. "It should not be considered that way. God gave us a full set of teeth. We should live with it."

Wisdom tooth removal is so common, Curtis says, that patients have stopped thinking of it as a serious medical procedure.

"In the public's mind, dentistry is really routine," he says. "You turn 18 and you think it is time for wisdom teeth to come out. It is almost ubiquitous, a rite of passage. But a dentist has to tell you maybe you should take out wisdom teeth for this, this, and this reason. But there is this, this, and this risk, too. You have to decide if it is worth it."

Wisdom teeth typically emerge around age 17 to 24 or later. Wisdom teeth can be a problem because the human jaw is shorter than it was early in our evolution. And these teeth are at the very end of the jaw, Curtis notes.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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