Research Finds it Wise to Remove Wisdom Teeth
Sep 23, 2005 - 5:45:38 PM

Keeping wisdom teeth intact has long been the traditional approach of dentists, but research is now showing even unproblematic wisdom teeth may need to come out to avoid snags later in life.

Richard Haug, DDS, UK College of Dentistry Executive Associate Dean and professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, is a lead researcher in the landmark “Third Molar Clinical Trials,” led by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation. Yesterday the AAOMS released its research findings to date and gave evidence supporting the removal of wisdom teeth in young adults.

The researchers agree that keeping wisdom teeth intact, even if they are not showing serious problems, isn’t the best idea. Dentists have long thought that periodontal disease, a common chronic oral infection caused by bacteria that starts around the wisdom teeth, doesn’t show up until most people are in their mid-30’s. However, this research clearly shows young adults are at risk for the disease much earlier than previously thought. It was once thought that three to five percent of young people had the beginnings of periodontal disease, but this research shows upward of thirty percent of young people may have the disease.

Most people have their wisdom teeth removed so they don’t crowd other teeth and move them out of place. But wisdom teeth can also cause cysts, tumors, infection and chronic inflammation – problems that are more common than previously thought. Those with deep pockets around their wisdom teeth have the most troubles. Once bacteria gather in the pockets it is very hard to get it out. It’s hard even for a dentist to reach and effectively clean bacteria from the back of the mouth.

But the problems reach further than just the mouth – these bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause a variety of systemic consequences, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, renal vascular disease, diabetes and obstetric complications.

Levels of C-reactive protein, used to measure acute inflammation and infection in the body, and isoprostanes, indicators of oxidative stress levels, also were found to be increased in patients with deep pockets around their wisdom teeth.

Another important finding shows pregnant women with these types of deep pockets and bacteria are at increased risk for pre-term babies, low birth weight babies and preeclampsia (high blood pressure). So what’s a young person with wisdom teeth to do? Right now the researchers recommend good personal oral care, along with yearly dentist evaluations of the area surrounding the wisdom teeth to check for pockets. Talk with your dentist if you have pockets to discuss their size and risk factors.

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