It looks like wisdom teeth can be preventable.
Now that you’ve found yourself a little incensed at the inflammatory title of this blog post (sometimes it takes alarm words to grab people’s eyeballs these days!) you’ll realize that the word ABORT actually does apply in this case.
Last month Tufts University School of Dental Medicine announced that there was a correlation between the injection of local anesthesia given to children between the ages of two and six and evidence of missing lower wisdom teeth. In other words, if a child had an IAN block at this age, they were over 4 times more likely to have missing third molar buds when radiographs were taken at least three years later.
At this young age, the cells that will become the third molar are not much larger than the anesthetic needle itself, and the developing tooth bud is quite vulnerable to injury. Dr. Anthony Silvestri, a clinical professor at Tufts University and an author of this study, has also published research to support the trauma theory of wisdom tooth prevention, showing that both diode lasers and electrosurgical energy can stop third molars from developing in rats.
Interestingly enough, I might have been affected by this phenomenon. As a kid I had my share of mandibular blocks as soon as my permanent molars started popping in with occlusal decay, and never developed my lower wisdom teeth. Thank you, Dr. Big-Scary-Hands-But-Really-Nice-Dentist Tom Watson DDS! Thank you for excusing my future visit to the oral surgeon.
You know, if the science behind this prophylactic de-nucleation of third molars gains any momentum, think about the consequences. In the next thirty years out-of-work oral surgeons will be lining up in protest of the loss of their bread and butter business. They’ll be picketing general dentists who perform these euphemisms and call them names like wizzie abortionists or bud killers.
Don’t take a side just yet. At this point the ethics of new research itself are even in question, but if there is a way to inoculate kids against the inconvenience of such minor diseases as chicken pox and shingles, why shouldn’t we at least explore the idea of making third molar extraction an option instead of an inevitability for most people?
And as a hygienist trying to hit production goals, I say, well, there goes my fourth qualifying tooth for quadrant scaling and root planing.
Thanks to these articles for all their information:
TuftsNow: Dental Anesthesia May Interrupt Development of Wisdom Teeth in Children
Nerve Blocks in Children May Destroy Future Molars
Dimensions of Dental Hygiene: Local Anesthesia and Wisdom Teeth Development