Conventional wisdom about wisdom teeth confirmed

Oct. 19, 2010
Evidence shows that keeping wisdom teeth may be more harmful than previously thought .

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Having wisdom teeth removed during young adulthood not only improves dental and oral health, but may also reduce the chance of illness later in life, according to research from the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, surgeons, and academics.

The evidence-based data confirmed what dentists and health professionals have been telling patients for years: having wisdom teeth removed while one is young helps one stay healthy.

Even when wisdom teeth are not diseased or symptomatic when they come into the oral cavity, their position and location in the mouth makes them difficult to keep clean and supports the accumulation and spread of harmful bacteria that can lead to more serious conditions later in life.

The local and systemic health implications of asymptomatic wisdom teeth are far broader than previously thought.

Additional key findings include:

* An absence of symptoms does not equal the absence of disease.
* Eighty percent of young adult subjects who retained previously healthy wisdom teeth had developed problems within seven years.
* Extracting wisdom teeth in young adults produces less pain and shorter healing times than in older patients.
* Monitoring retained wisdom teeth may be more expensive than extraction over a lifetime.
* Most patients (60%) with asymptomatic wisdom teeth prefer extraction to retention.
* Retaining wisdom teeth can increase the risk for broader conditions including preterm birth and cardiovascular disease.

"Even if wisdom teeth aren't causing any immediate problems, it's likely that people will face complications down the road," said Dr. Louis K. Rafetto, chair of the AAOMS Task Force on Third Molar Data. "The fact is, extraction is much easier in young adults and research consistently shows that it is a simple way of improving both dental and overall health."

Despite extensive research published during the past 10 years about periodontal disease and other complications resulting from retained wisdom teeth, some health-care providers still do not recommend this service to their patients.

"It is critical that both patients and health-care providers fully understand how harmful retaining these wisdom teeth can be," Dr. Rafetto noted. "Inaction can have serious long-term health consequences, including increased systemic inflammation which can lead to cardiovascular disease and preterm birth."

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