Scientists Question the Need For Removing Wisdom Teeth

New evidence suggests that dentists are taking out wisdom teeth too often, causing patients millions of extra dollars, reports Discovery News.

In their report, published in the British Dental Journal, researchers questioned whether dentists are removing wisdom teeth more frequently than required. They argue that there is no need to pull the teeth unless the patient is experiencing adverse symptoms.

According to a study, 10 million wisdom teeth are removed each year from five million individuals. Wisdom teeth grow in later than all our other teeth, and only start to emerge around the age of 17. In many cases, the teeth become impacted, crowding the mouth, or push into other teeth. In these cases, dentists often remove the teeth to avoid the risk of toothache, gum inflammation, and decay.

Researchers based this report on an approach taken in the UK, which considers the need for wisdom tooth removal on an evidence-based decision-making process. This means that dentists must have specific evidence that the removal of a patient’s wisdom teeth will be beneficial to the patient’s health.

”The core message is using evidence to drive healthcare reform,” says Marc Tennant, a professor at the University of Western Australia. “In Britain, when they started to apply some evidence-based criteria, the number of teeth they needed to remove dropped, and has remained relatively low over the past 10 years of so.”

The report also talks about the complications that can come from the wisdom teeth removal process, such as damage to the teeth, nerve damage, infection, swelling, bleeding, or pain.

Dr. Rick Olive, president of the Australian Dental Association, argues that the UK’s approach is just a way to save money. He believes there is not currently enough research to back up the evidence-based guidelines, and that the decision should be left to the patient.

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