Wisdom teeth: To remove or not to remove?

18 August 2015

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the removal of wisdom teeth.

One argues that wisdom teeth, which begin appearing around the age of 17, should be left in place unless they begin causing problems for the patient.

Others, however, contend that leaving them where they are is driven more by economic imperatives and less by the welfare of the person in question.

This second line of argument was recently written up in the British Dental Journal where researchers argued that leaving wisdom teeth alone saves money and is a key driver in the quest for healthcare reform.

UK practice shows that asymmetric wisdom teeth, which are teeth that haven't become impacted and caused problems such as gum inflammation and decay, don't cause any problems and should simply be monitored by dentists in case problems develop.

In Australia, the number of people admitted to hospital for the removal of impacted wisdom teeth is seven times greater than the UK version.

Researchers say that adopting the UK model would result in savings to the Australian healthcare system of $420-513 million.

However, the president of the Australian Dental Association Rick Olive is concerned that this argument is driven by people seeking to rationalise health care, and suggests that patients should be the one to make the decision in consultation with their dentists.

You can read the full article at the ABC's website.