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AAOMS reports wisdom tooth research

Washington—Third molar clinical studies may offer new risk-benefit guidance for dentist and patient decision making on wisdom tooth treatment, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons researchers said at an Oct. 19 news conference.

“We think we’re coming up with important information that will help patients over time,” said Dr. Raymond P. White, Jr., Dalton L. McMichael Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of North Carolina and lead investigator for research funded jointly by the AAOMS and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation. He is a former dean of the UNC School of Dentistry.

“There has to be an increased focus on third molars,” said Dr. James Q. Swift, professor and director of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Minnesota School Of Dentistry.

To keep or not to keep, that may be the patient’s question.

A bibliography of an umbrella project known as the Third Molar Clinical Trials cites a longitudinal trial of patients retaining third molars as well as research on recovery after third molar surgery, the relationship of third molars to periodontal health, the impact of third molar symptoms, pain and swelling on oral health related quality of life, asymptomatic third molars and other population and clinical studies, some funded by other entities such as the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“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 which can lead to more serious conditions later in life," the AAOMS said in a news release. "Importantly, the local and systemic health implications of asymptomatic wisdom teeth are far broader than previously thought.”

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last to erupt in the mouth, generally in the age 17-25 range, a time of life oft described as the “age of wisdom.”

An online questioner had the last question at the webcast news conference, “Why is there disagreement in health care about the removal of wisdom teeth?”

Dr. Louis K. Rafetto, who chairs the AAOMS Task Force on Third Molar Data, offered the “best science by the best people with the best available data” in response.

More information is available at www.aaoms.org/thirdmolars.