Adults aged 52 and older with visible third molars, or "wisdom teeth," are 1.5 times more apt to suffer periodontal disease in the area of the adjacent second molar than similar adults their age who have had their third molars removed.
An ongoing study sponsored by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation and published in the February 2005 Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery appears to confirm previous research findings that the presence of third molars may continue to have a negative impact on periodontal health well into later life.
The AAOMS/OMSF study looked at 6,793 adults from Maryland, North Carolina and Minnesota, aged 52 to 74, who were participants in the Dental ARIC study, a sub-study of the Artherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Thirty percent of the study group had retained one or more third molars.
Investigators led by John R. Elter, DMD, PhD, Stephen Offenbacher, DDS, PhD, Raymond P. White, Jr, DDS, PhD and James D. Beck, PhD, all of the School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, measured the periodontal probing depth surrounding the existing third molar to determine whether periodontal disease was present. A probing depth of 5 mm or greater with 2 mm or more attachment loss on the distal of a second molar or around the adjacent third molar was a determining factor for periodontal disease. The research team also considered the presence of gingival bleeding on the adjacent second molar as compared to those patients without a visible third molar.
Of the 6,793 patients in the study, third molars were not present in 70 percent, or 4,758 of the patients. Of the 30 percent with at least one visible third molar, probing depths of 5 mm or more were more likely to occur 1.5 times more often than in the control group whose third molars had been removed. A similar correlation was found in the area of gingival bleed on the adjacent second molar, where patients with at least one visible third molar were 1.3 times more likely to be affected than their counterparts in the control group.
Researchers note that their findings lend credence to the continuing negative impact of visible third molars on periodontal health and should be examined further.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the professional organization representing more than 7,000 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States, supports its members' ability to practice their specialty through education, research, and advocacy. AAOMS members comply with rigorous continuing education requirements and submit to periodic office examinations, ensuring the public that all office procedures and personnel meet stringent national standards.