Should I remove my third molar even though it is not bothering me?
A study was performed that evaluated the correlation of keeping wisdom teeth (third molars) that are asymptomatic (no subjective signs of pain or discomfort), with second molar problems (the tooth in front of our wisdom teeth). There are many opinions on whether or not an individual should have their wisdom teeth removed if they are not bothersome to them, but I hope that this article will provide some clarity when making these tough decisions. This study used men in the United States (middle-aged) as its subjects.
What are potential problems to the second molar when we keep our third molar (wisdom tooth)?
So, what can go wrong with the second molar when we keep our third molar (it's not bothering us anyway...)? The following is a list of potential problems that can occur to the second molar due to having a wisdom tooth present:
- Decay on the second molar
- Bone loss on the back side of the second molar (greater than 20% bone loss was considered in this study)
- Periodontal inflammation with progressive bone loss on the second molar (periodontal probing depth greater than 4.0mm was the criteria)
The study compared second molars in two (2) groups:
- A second molar with no third molar (wisdom tooth) present
- A second molar that has a third molar (wisdom tooth) present and asymptomatic (not bothersome to patient)
What were the conclusions of the study?
The results concluded that:
- Second molars adjacent to erupted third molars were more likely to have decay
- Second molars adjacent to soft tissue impacted third molars were more likely to have bone loss and a probing depth on the back side of the tooth
- Second molars adjacent to bony impacted third molars were more likely to have bone loss
The authors made a discovery that the way in which the third molar is in the patient's jaw is most important in predicting problems. However, we now understand the risks of each situation. We have learned that the highest risk of potential second molar tooth loss is when the second molar is adjacent to a third molar that is impacted only in the soft tissue. The next highest risk are those adjacent to bony impacted (completely in the jaw bone) and fully erupted third molars.
Conclusion | Keeping third molars is associated with an increased risk of second molar pathology (problems) in middle-aged men.
Disclaimer: Of course, all healthcare decisions are made on an individual basis based on numerous factors. All treatment choices are made between the patient and their healthcare professional.