The Wisdom of Wisdom Tooth Removal…
The wealth of information brought forth by the internet age has been a boom and a bust for healthcare workers. It has been a boom because educated, informed patients are empowered to make good decisions about their own health. On the other hand, the lack of filters and controls (anyone can blog about anything, whether they know their subject or not) can sometimes confuse patients. Our bodies are extremely complex and our knowledge base about the best treatments are ever changing. It takes a lot of time and study for any of us to stay up to date. Even more to filter through the static and find science backed advice.
Recently, there has been an article floating around social media that claims that wisdom tooth removal is an over utilized dental procedure and should rarely be done. I couldn’t help myself, so I read the article. It did have some facts in it. Even a couple of valid points. There were also some kernels of truth. Unfortunately, most of the blog post’s conclusions were wrong or just not backed by medical research. The most entertaining part (as is usually the case) was the comment section below the article where the debate was held. The anonymity of the internet does not always bring out the best in people.
To clarify things, let us look at the science behind wisdom tooth removal.
It is completely true that all wisdom teeth do not need to be removed. There are a few criteria that these teeth should meet to be retained. They need to be healthy. They need to erupt (grow in) fully. They need to be positioned correctly with a proper biting partner. Finally, they need to be kept clean and free of gum disease that can spread to other healthy teeth.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, the vast majority of wisdom teeth do not meet these criteria for health. According to the American Dental Association, wisdom tooth removal should be recommended in the presence of pain, chronic infections, related cysts or tumors, damage to adjacent teeth, gum disease, or tooth decay. The reason wisdom tooth removal is so often advised is because they usually cause an assortment of these problems.
When should wisdom teeth be removed? Ideally, they would all be removed before they hurt or get infected or cause the listed problems. The procedure is least traumatic at an earlier age, before the roots of the wisdom teeth fully form. Regular dental visits with the appropriate dental x-rays will help to determine when the time for wisdom tooth removal is right for each individual.
Until next week, keep smiling.
-Please send questions and comments to Drs. Parrish at www.ParrishDental.com.