Study Warns Adults Not to Ignore Their Wisdom Teeth
Young adults have higher risk of developing gum disorders
October 6, 2005 8:04 PM
Keeping your wisdom teeth through your twenties may not be so wise after all, according to the results of a seven-year research study by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS).
Young adults, ages 20-35, have a higher risk of developing Chronic Oral Inflammation of the gums if their third molars (wisdom teeth) are kept, according to two different long-term studies, conducted by the AAOMS and The Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation (OMSF).
Dr. Robert S. Glickman, from the New York University of Dentistry, explained that the primary health concern with all teeth is infection. However, because third molars are in a unique place, infection may spread from the lower jaw molars to the neck, the sinuses, or even the brain if infection occurs in the upper jaw.
According to the Baja Institute of Oral Surgery, 85 percent of people nationwide between the ages of 16-20 have all four of their wisdom teeth. In an informal poll on campus of nearly 100 students between ages 18 and 27, more than half still had their wisdom teeth. Dentists advise that wisdom teeth should be removed no later than age 24.
Junior Shushannah Akin, 21, said that she does not ever plan on getting her wisdom teeth pulled. "Neither of my parents had theirs pulled, so I'm hoping genetics is on my side." Akin said. The AAOMS states that even if a molar does not bother you, it could still pose problems and should therefore be checked twice a year.
“These infections, if they spread, can be quite serious, life threatening, and often require hospitalization and surgery.” Glickman said. “Worst case scenario, the lower jaw (infection) can spread to the chest. The upper jaw (infection can spread) to the eye and in the worst case scenario, the brain. The actual study identified possible long term consequences for chronic inflammation.”
The President of the AAOMS, Dr. Daniel J. Daly Jr., said in an online press conference that there were 254 people participating in one of their studies who had no symptoms of infection, had all four of their wisdom teeth, and who were willing to keep the teeth for five years. After inspection of their molars, almost 60 percent of the patients had signs of gum disease due to a specific bacteria around the molars, and 25 percent of the patients’ infections got significantly worse in just two years. The patients did not realize that they even had an infection.
Several types of chronic oral inflammation, which causes most types of wisdom tooth decay, are “transmissible, infectious diseases that are characterized by a certain bacteria,” Daly said. “The bacteria colonize, producing a breakdown in the local tissue, bone and collagen in the mouth.” When this happens, the gums will swell and they might bleed. Left untreated, and if the condition becomes too severe, lesions could form anywhere in the mouth, including the toungue.
There are deep pockets that form around the tooth, allowing bacteria to form in the gums which results in Periodontal or Periocronitis disease. These two diseases are the most common forms of gum disease and having one of them enables the bacteria to release toxins into the gums and, over time, provide a portal into the bloodstream for bacteria. In turn, this results in bacteria flowing to the jaw, which can cause cysts or tumors on the neck, chest, sinus and brain.
"My jaw was too small and they said I had no space so I got them all out." Tracey Wilson, a 21-year-old junior said. "I only felt the tip of maybe one or two-that's it"
“Having health problems because of wisdom teeth varies. They could impact the adjacent tooth, and having a small jaw increases the chances because they are harder to clean… individually, or by a dentist.” Mary Majorossy, a dental assistant at the Castro Dental Group said.
“It is not all that common to get a cyst or tumor,” said Dr. Jennifer Creelman, DDS. “In my eight years of practice, I’ve only seen one tumor-benign-but you should still get them (wisdom teeth) out because the jaws are not big enough for those third molars. When they erupt, there is communication between the mouth and bone, and that is pretty dangerous.”
The results of the study also suggested that even when wisdom teeth come in through the tissue correctly in an upright position, they are just as likely to exhibit inflammation as those that remain impacted or buried in the gums.
“Now that studies show that kids are being born without wisdom teeth, and in my philosophy, if evolution is showing that we don’t need them, then we don’t need them, even if they are healthy wisdom teeth.” Creelman said.
“Wisdom teeth do not need to be there because deep pockets still form." Creelman said. "Very few people can keep them healthy enough and have clean enough oral hygiene to keep them from producing bacteria.”
Although previous studies have shown that systemic effects tend to occur more in older populations, dentists still warn younger adults not to take any chances.
“You can’t rely on symptoms as a message to do something about your wisdom teeth, the bacteria is present," Dr. Steven Offenbacher, DDS, lead investigator on the AAOMS team said during the online press conference.
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