Because many people whose wisdom teeth don’t cause them any pain will nevertheless agree to have them removed to avoid possible problems later on, a researcher from the Netherlands has investigated the risk of complications associated with the procedure, such as infection and nerve damage.
When oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr Hossein Ghaeminia from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre conducted a systematic review of the relevant research, he found there was insufficient evidence supporting removal in all such cases.
He then conducted his own research, and concluded that each patient must be considered individually.
“On the one hand, surgical intervention is accompanied by a risk of complications, such as infection of the wound and damage to the sensory nerve of the lip and chin,” Dr Ghaeminia said. “On the other hand, leaving a problem-free wisdom tooth in place may eventually lead to more damage to the neighbouring teeth.”
Since one of the most frequent complications after removing wisdom teeth is infection, Dr Ghaeminia examined which factors contribute most to this problem.
“People who are 26 or older and women run a greater risk of infection, but smoking also appears to be a risk factor,” he said.
Dr Ghaeminia also looked at whether infection can be prevented by rinsing the cavity that once held the tooth with tap water. “Compared with other options, such as antibiotics, rinsing with tap water is a relatively cheap and simple way to prevent infection after removal of the tooth. Patients can also do this at home,” he advised.
Dr Ghaeminia has summarised his findings in a pamphlet, which can be used to better evaluate the risks for each patient. The pamphlet consists of a decision tree with arguments for and against the removal of wisdom teeth, risk factors for complications and methods for preventing infection.