Q: My 15-year-old daughter just had her teeth cleaned and X-rayed. The dentist gave her a referral to an oral surgeon to have four wisdom teeth removed. When questioned why, his response was that it’s easier to have them removed at this age than to wait until she’s older.
He said there isn’t a problem with her teeth at this time. My question is, is it common practice to have wisdom teeth removed at an early age to avoid problems in the future?
A: Thanks for a great question. Drs. Robert Brockett and Rushi Patel may want to add something to this, as they are excellent oral surgeons in our community. They also happen to write for the Chronicle. If they have something to add, I am sure they will address it in one of their next columns.
To follow is the way I view this situation. It is generally accepted practice to have third molars removed earlier in life rather than later. With this being said, without the presence of disease, at age 15, there is no rush to have the third molars removed.
The thinking behind the removal of the third molars earlier in life and in the absence of pathology is as follows. A surgical procedure such as the removal of third molars is handled better by the patient at a younger age rather than an older one. Midlife removals of third molars are well tolerated, but removals of third molars later in life carry an increased potential for problems.
One of the most common things that happens to third molars is the growth of a cyst around one or more of them. When I have had this happen to patients later in life, they always say they wish they had their third molars removed when they were younger.
Another thing to think about is that we are placing dental implants in the position of the second molar more often now than in the past. If there is a third molar present near the area of the second molar, it could complicate the placement of an implant or bone graft if needed.
What I would say to you as the parent of a 15-year-old is this — since the removal of the third molars is not urgent, I would try to have it done during your child’s spring or summer break. I would have it done when you are not planning a vacation right after their removal.
You will want to see the oral surgeon well in advance of the date you want to have the teeth out, as oral surgeons are usually very busy during the spring or summer breaks. If you see them for a consultation well in advance, you will likely have your choice of the date of surgery.
If your child is headed to college out of state, this is even more important to get done before then. The last thing you want is for your child to have an issue while out of state.
In the event that you decide not to have them out, be sure that your dentist is monitoring the area of the third molars regularly. This would mean they would have to have a panoramic X-ray machine or a CBCT machine that creates a 3-D image of the area. If changes were to be seen, act on it sooner rather than later.
I hope this may have helped clarify things. Best of luck to your daughter.
Dr. Frank Vascimini is a dentist practicing in Homosassa. Send your questions to 4805 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446 or email them to him at questions@MasterpieceDentalStudio.com.