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Wisdom tooth extraction is a multibillion-dollar industry driven by myths that continue to be spread by the conventional dental profession for immense profit.
Over Spring Break during my senior year in college, I endured wisdom tooth extraction like just about everyone else I knew my age. To top it off, the dentist knocked me out for the procedure instead of using a simple local anesthetic plus laughing gas.
Needless to say, I spent most of my vacation on the living room couch with my mouth loaded with gauze! Recovery from the anesthesia caused even more complications.
Prior to surgery, were my wisdom teeth infected or painful in any way?
Were they causing any sort of problems for me whatsoever?
Then why in the world did I have them out you might ask?
As it turns out, over two-thirds of cases of wisdom tooth extraction are completely unnecessary says Dr. Jay Friedman DDS in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Of the approximately 5 million people who endure wisdom tooth extraction each year, 11,000 suffer what’s called “permanent paresthesia” which is a fancy name for numbness of the lip, tongue, and cheek resulting from nerve damage during the surgery.
The problem is, wisdom tooth extraction is quite the little oil well of profit for dentists with the costs of such surgeries topping 3 billion US$ each and every year.
Sounds like the standard practice of wisdom tooth extraction is a bit like “finding and filling” cavities that don’t exist, doesn’t it?
Ah, yes. There’s the rub.
According to Dr. Friedman:
Third-molar surgery is a multibillion-dollar industry that generates significant income for the dental profession, particularly oral and maxillofacial surgeons. It is driven by misinformation and myths that have been exposed before but that continue to be promulgated by the profession.
Dr. Friedman goes on to dismantle in very compelling fashion the 5 myths of wisdom tooth extraction.
Myth #1: Most Wisdom Teeth Cause Problems
The truth is that only 12% of wisdom teeth actually cause an acute issue somewhere down the road that requires the attention of a dentist to resolve.
This is about the same rate as appendicitis, but people do not routinely and preventively have their appendix removed like what happens with wisdom teeth!
Myth #2: Early Wisdom Tooth Extraction is Less Traumatic
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends the extraction of all 4 wisdom teeth by early adulthood before the roots are fully formed to minimize any chance of infection and pain.
The truth is that this early removal of wisdom teeth is actually much more traumatic than a wait and see approach which leaves asymptomatic wisdom teeth in place and only removes them if pathology develops in the future.
Further, complications from wisdom tooth extraction which include dry socket, secondary infection, and paresthesia (numbness of the lip, tongue, and cheek) are less likely to occur in an older patient than an adolescent.
Myth #3: Erupting Wisdom Teeth Crowd Anterior Teeth
Dr. Friedman writes that it is simply not possible for wisdom teeth to crowd 14 other teeth with firm vertical roots.
There is simply not enough force to do so and multiple studies support this fact.
Myth #4: Risk of Problems Increases With Age
A study of 1756 people who kept their wisdom teeth for an average of 27 years found that less than 1% experienced any cyst formation.
There is zero evidence to support the unsubstantiated claim by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons which states that problems with impacted wisdom teeth increase with age.
Myth #5: Risk of Harm is Small
The list of potential complications from wisdom tooth extraction is long.
- Trismus (lockjaw)
- Alveolar osteitis (dry socket)
- Periodontal damage
- Soft-tissue infection
- Injury to temporomandibular joint
- Temporary paresthesia (numbness of the lips, tongue, and cheek)
- Permanent paresthesia
- Fracture of adjacent teeth
- Fracture of the mandible
- Fracture of the maxilla
- Sinus exposure or infection
- Anesthetic complications
Even in cases where there are absolutely no complications whatsoever, wisdom tooth extraction requires 3 days of discomfort and disability while the patient recovers from surgery.
Given that no more than 12% of wisdom teeth ever cause any problems whatsoever at any point down the road, the risk of removal seems great in comparison.
Skip The Surgery!
So, if your dentist tells you or your child that it’s time for those wisdom teeth to come out when they aren’t causing any trouble at all, just politely smile, say “uh, no thanks”, and go home.
You just saved yourself a rather large chunk of change my friend.
Even in cases where you must remove the wisdom teeth, there is no need for antibiotics in most cases. A biological dentist has natural approaches to protect a patient from infection without destruction of the gut with meds.
Which Dentists Won’t Pressure You To Remove Wisdom Teeth?
If you are getting pressured to remove your child’s wisdom teeth, know that a biological dentist does not do this!
I get many requests about who I recommend as a truly holistic, biological dentist who understands the value to long-term health of the wisdom teeth and WON’T take them out unless absolutely necessary.
I recommend Dr. Carlo Litano of Natural-Smiles.com – (727) 300-0044.
He sees young children as well as adults and does phone consultations to help guide those who don’t live near his office. Be sure to tell Dr. Litano that Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist sent you and get 10% off your first visit!
American Journal of Public Health, Prophylactic Extraction of Third Molars: A Public Health Hazard, Jay Friedman DDS
How I Healed My Child’s Cavity
Toddler’s Severe Tooth Decay Halted in 5 Days
Resolving Periodontal Problems with Bone Broth
Coconut Oil Stops Strep Bacteria from Damaging Tooth Enamel
What is the True Cause of Crooked Teeth?
10 Signs Your Dentist is Truly Holistic
Avoiding Root Canals with Diet Alone
Could the Cause of Your Illness Be Right Under Your Nose?
I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” approach and everyone should consider their own personal health and reasons. At 45, my husband had all 4 of wisdom teeth, they had erupted many years ago. There were no problems he was really aware of until he was diagnosed with gum disease. A holistic dentist told him that it was basically impossible to clean that far back despite the best hygiene and over time this led to a build up of bacteria in his mouth. We all know the connection between gum disease and overall health. He had them removed and the disease is improving. The special cleanings and surgery at this age is very costly. So I decided to go ahead and have my son’s removed to possibly avoid these issues for him later on. This was also advised by the same dentist. I should also say his recovery was a lot faster than my husband’s so that can be a valid point. I believe there is a lot of misinformation about dental health out there but we should look at the facts and do what’s best for us.
Sarah, you can add to the complications of surgery that your gums may not grow to fill in the empty socket. The socket is hard to clean and prone to infection. So now my dentist wants me to go to a periodontist for gum surgery to close up the sockets!
If you read Weston A. Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration you will learn that our poor diet and depleted soils contribute to the malformation of our dental arches and bone structure, which is why we often don’t have room for those teeth. People’s long past who ate their culturally nutritious diets had excellent teeth with room for those wisdom teeth.
I did have my wisdom teeth out in college. I don’t really know the details anylonger; I believe it was preventative. In my 30’s, I saw a holistic doctor for chronic unexplained pain. Through some testing, he identified that I had infections in two of those old wisdom tooth sites, even though they felt fine. I am just mentioning this because pulling wisdom teeth seems perfectly safe, but in reality, a very mild infection can set into the jaw bone and cause chronic health issues later. Check out preventionandhealing.com to learn more about this topic.
My grandmother had problems with one of her wisdom teeth…….at the ripe old age of 91! They never came in and were never impacted or caused any problems until she was 91 and then it was a simple thing to remove it and she had no complications. Anecdotal maybe, but funny you don’t hear more about all the people older than today’s generation having problems with their wisdom teeth that they never had removed……neither of my parents had theirs removed and they’re nearing 70, no issues for either of them. I foolishly had my 2 wisdom teeth removed in college because of all the myths you listed and I would soon no longer be under their health insurance. Horrible, painful experience, I wish I had known better :/
My 27 year old daughter chose not to have her wisdom teeth removed. She only has the top 2 but her dentist told her they would keep growing since they don’t have anything to touch and it would eventually cause her problems. Have you heard of this? She isn’t having any problems with them. Thanks for your website and platform.
If God gave us it, it is right. He doesnt make mistakes. Dont take our willy nilly. Only rarely. How about studying how to heal naturally. Study homeopathy.
Actualy i stay in South Africa and there is africans from every african country here. Our surgeons are busy 24/7 around the clock.. i had mine done because ut ruined my stunning teeth at 36 and caused extreme inpact. I wish i had it done earlier. Because now n need to sort my impacted teeth!!
Invisalign Colorado Springs
Well whatever the reason is but most of the people remove their wisdom tooth. I personally don’t intend to remove them unless I have any problem.