Wisdom teeth a thing of the past?

Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, may be a thing of the past according to a study published in JADA. A recemt report from NBC News suggests suggests It may be possible to prevent the development of wisdom teeth by injecting local anesthetic into the site of developing wisdom teeth in children. While more study is needed, the idea of preventing the development of the wisdom teeth and negating the need for future extractions or complications, is appealing.

Why are wisdom teeth so often problematic?

Over the course of human evolution the size of the skull has increased to accommodate our larger brain. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the size and weight our neck can support so our jaws have shrunk while the number of teeth has remained the same. (Actually, about 7% of the population is missing one or more teeth and some people have extra small lateral incisors). Since the wisdom teeth are the last to erupt there often is not enough room for them to come in to the jaw. They may come in partially or be completely stuck under the gum.

Should wisdom teeth be extracted?

It depends. Occasionally wisdom teeth come in to a normal, functional position in which case they can be left in though extra care must be taken to keep them clean. Studies have shown that on average, people with wisdom teeth have more periodontal, (gum), disease. This is not surprising since periodontal disease is caused by bacteria and there is often excess plaque around wisdom teeth.  Wisdom teeth that come in but are not in good alignment often trap a lot of plaque and are impossible to keep clean. In that situation, which occurs often, we recommend extraction. Another scenario is that the wisdom teeth are covered by gum and/or bone (impacted). In that situation there is no clear recommendation based on scientific studies though it is significantly easier and less traumatic to have the extractions before the teeth are fully developed.

For more information ask or email your doctor.

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