Third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, begin to grow between the ages of 17 and 25 for most people. If their growth will negatively impact other teeth or the bite, dentists will often remove them with a simple procedure. In fact, every year, 5 million people have their wisdom teeth removed. But what if there was a way to prevent wisdom teeth from even developing? This is a question researchers are beginning to look into to reduce or even eliminate the need for wisdom teeth removal.
A Potential Vaccine?
Some children require extensive dental work at a young age, most of which is done under local anesthesia. 2013 research conducted on 220 children between 2 and 6 demonstrated that those children who went under a lot of local anesthesia never grew wisdom teeth when older.
This finding led researchers to suggest that local anesthetic could be used at a young age to purposefully prevent wisdom teeth from developing later in life. Further research in this field is required, however, as it is unclear whether the anesthetic itself or the physical trauma stunted wisdom teeth development.
The Dangers of Wisdom Teeth
Many people wonder why wisdom teeth removal is necessary for some. Especially as jaw size has decreased in the past thousand years or so, there often is not enough space for the four extra teeth to grow in without impacting others. This can result in damaging teeth and can lead to major oral health consequences for a person.
Impaction is one of the most significant risks of not removing wisdom teeth. If fluid accumulates under the gums near impacted teeth, these fluids can become infected and solidify into a painful cyst. Over time, cysts can do significant damage to the jaw bone.
Wisdom teeth can also push against preexisting molars and facilitate decay where the two teeth meet. Decay between teeth is difficult to visualize and could quickly escalate to significant tooth damage.
Whether or not a “vaccine” for wisdom teeth exists, wisdom teeth removal is still a common practice. X-ray screening or watching for common signs and symptoms can help monitor wisdom teeth growth to ensure they are removed before they pose a serious risk to health. The surgical process for removal is relatively simple as it can generally be done under local anesthesia in the office and the benefits are immense and immediate.
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