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I learned something new today....

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
.. that Americans routinely remove healthy wisdom teeth from people.

Asking on Twitter about this after seeing a tweet about it, and several people tweeted back that yes, it is a routine thing that is done to most teens, without any evidence of a problem, as prophylaxis.

I can see a definite connection with this and circumcision. While at least the teens are able to give some form of informed consent, it was brought up that many are not aware that they CAN refuse surgery, given that it is after all quite painful and a lengthy recovery, and even if they do know, the cultural preference is to remove them so that may sway the individual towards it.

I live in the UK, and wisdom teeth only tend to be removed here if there is a problem with them. I do suspect the difference between the two countries here is largely down to the private health insurance vs NHS care thing.
This blog post though points out that there is no evidence that routine wisdom teeth removal actually improves health.

Anyway, slightly digressing from the forum topic, but thought it was an interesting comparison.
post #2 of 48
Originally Posted by Claire and Boys View Post
.. that Americans routinely remove healthy wisdom teeth from people.
I'm not sure that's entirely correct. Generally, dentists will do x-rays to see if wisdom teeth will become impacted due to lack of space in the mouth. If it appears there will be a problem, they will recommend removal, otherwise they'll just leave em alone.

At least that's what I've seen.

Perhaps an analogy might be the routine practice of tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, and appendectomy (somewhat) 10-20 years ago. Still, your point is valid that at most now-considered elective surgeries, the child is old enough to give some form of informed consent.
post #3 of 48
Thread Starter 
Perhaps it varies from state to state. I've had about six people now tweet me saying that it is routine in their area to remove them *just in case* they might pose a problem later.
post #4 of 48
I don't know of one classmate, besides myself who refused on the basis of it being unnecessary, who escaped the routine removal of wisdom teeth around 18 years of age. I'm also in a high RIC area.
post #5 of 48
This is an interesting comparison. I think in a lot of ways (based on my personal experience) wisdom teeth are viewed as extraneous. While not everyone gets them removed, I think it's probably recommended much more often than necessary. Especially for people with dental and/or health insurance that would cover the procedure. I can't say that I have many friends around my age who still have theirs. Like circumcision, in many ways, if there's the slightest hint of a problem, or the possibility that there *could* be a problem, they're taken out. Because it's the 'norm', no one questions it. I had all four of mine removed while on holiday from school - came home from college for winter break and my mom had scheduled me an appointment with the oral surgeon without even telling me in advance. I had a horrible week of recovery. Prior to that I'd had some pain where one of them was trying to come through, but in hindsight I do wonder how necessary that whole mess was.

I was certainly old enough to give my consent, but even so...not informed there was an option otherwise.
post #6 of 48
The removal of wisdom teeth early is usually due to potential problems later on. I refused to have mine out as a teen when my mother tried for 2 reasons. 1) I do not believe in any medical procedure performed by routine or policy. 2) The oral surgeon my mother was pushing me to use NEVER had anything good said about him. At the time it was the right decision for me but now I am having my wisdom teeth removed at age 25 due to lack of space and repeat infections they are causing. So, in the case of wisdom teeth it can go either way. I would have had a lot less pain if I had it done then but it is no more harmful to do it now.

Children in their teens should be given the choice as I was-it is surgery.
post #7 of 48
I have endured ten years of hassle and harassment from multiple dentists' offices, because I have refused to have mine out. There's no problem with them-- they cause me no pain. Two of them are in, and are sound, healthy teeth. One is a bit crooked, but who really cares-- nobody ever sees it. The other two have not emerged yet. (I'm 35) I don't know why.

Anyway, every single solitary time I see a dentist for any reason, the dentist looks all startled and shocked that they weren't taken out, and asks me repeatedly if I will consider scheduling to have them taken out. They seem astonished when I say that I want to keep them. They're my teeth, they don't bother me at all, and I want them. Apparently, I'm the only one they've ever met who's reached my "ripe old" age and still kept my wisdom teeth.

I am not opposed to "just in case" procedures with informed consent. But most people, adult or teen, who have this done are having it done because "everybody does" without any real understanding that every surgical procedure has risks, and that it is possible to live your life with your wisdom teeth in your mouth and have it done if and when a problem emerges. Because sometimes no problems happen.
post #8 of 48
I've never heard of this being common. I had mine out as an older teen when they started to come in and push against all of my other teeth.
The US might have a different 'standard' for teeth as well and there is a lot of value placed on the cosmetic look of smiles/teeth. I suppose it might have some parallels, but generally the removal of the teeth does not cause the same level of problems and risks and lifetime consequences as circumcision.

post #9 of 48
I'm a bit surprised. Most people I know still have their wisdom teeth (I do, DH does.) Of course a lot of the people I know didn't have dental plans when they were teens.
post #10 of 48
I just had a wisdom tooth removed last week that was impacted. It wasn't unhealthy, but I was already going under for extraction of a different tooth and I decided to have 3 teeth removed all at once. When I had the original consult for my bad tooth, the dentist expressed surprise that I still had my wisdom teeth and at 24 I was the "oldest person he'd ever seen" that still had widsom teeth.
post #11 of 48
My desire to have two removed was cosmetic and because cleaning them was hard - not enough space to fully erupt. I haven't had nearly the TMJ problems since then, either. The main reason was that they were pushing my braces-straightened teeth out of alignment. I was a full grown adult when I made the decision myself. Most of my friends in college had it done when the teeth started causing headaches and pain, age 19-22ish.
post #12 of 48
I guess I always assumed that wisdom teeth evolved to grow in early adulthood because of the high likelihood that one or more molars would have decayed and be missing in the ages before modern dentistry made them obsolete. While I agree that there's no reason to take them out if they aren't causing (or aren't likely to cause) any problems, it seems that more often than not there really isn't room for them in a mouth that hasn't lost any existing molars, without crowding the other teeth. I have no scientific data to back any of that up, just what always made sense to me. I had mine out before they caused problems because I knew even without the x-rays (which they did take) that my mouth was too small to accommodate them, and I had escaped adolescence without braces, I didn't want to get crooked teeth from my wisdom teeth. But it was my decision completely. I was even the one who brought it up to the dentist, not the other way around.
post #13 of 48
I fell for the routine wisdom teeth removal and i regret it. Now that i have more wisdom i realize i could have refused. I think that's why they try to get them when you're young enough not to question it. I wish i had left them and had the molars with cavities pulled instead. The dentist wouldn't do it for me and i was a teenager who did what she is supposed to.
post #14 of 48
I had mine moved at 34. All four of them were impacted, but the two that were partially out had cavities because I couldn't get to them to brush well. The other two were so far up that they ended up being part of the sinus pressure I'd suffered from for years! That being said, the recovery was awful. The surgery was ugly. And if I hadn't been in pain, I never would have done it. I do know many many people who have had it done "just in case."
post #15 of 48
I must have a big mouth because all 4 of mine came in (fully) with no problems (15-17 years ago), no crowding, nothing to speak of. Also must have had a good dentist because nobody ever said anything to me about having them removed (thank goodness) although I remember she "sealed" them with something to prevent cavities. It didnt work eventually it must have wore off and I got cavities like all the other teeth of course. I still have 2 of them, but the other 2 I had removed in the last few years as I chose extraction over more dental work. After reading all the horror stories about pain after extraction I was surprised to feel nothing after they were removed. No headache or pain to speak of. Piece of cake. So Im assuming thats only true for teeth which are "impacted" in which case the "surgery" is actually that and much different from a typical extraction in which the tooth is fully erupted.

My husband is in his mid 40s and has never had his out either, but only one or two of his ever erupted (and I think at least one is in crooked too) and therefore the ones that are under the gums are impacted. They have never caused him problems that he is aware of. The only reason his were probably never removed was because he avoided the dentist for years otherwise Im sure they would have wanted to do surgery. They never said anything to him about it last year who knows why, they probably figured if they haven't caused him trouble yet, then they probably never will (or maybe this type of surgery at his age was not worth the risk). I was surprised actually because I expected them to say something about it.
post #16 of 48
Originally Posted by newmum35 View Post
but only one or two of his ever erupted (and I think at least one is in crooked too) and therefore the ones that are under the gums are impacted.
Not necessarily. Some people just don't have all 4 wisdom teeth. They simply don't have all the tooth buds to begin with.

When I said I have "all" my wisdom teeth still, I meant the 3 that I grew. The dentist looked at the x-ray of where a person would typically have a fourth tooth, and there is nothing down there.
post #17 of 48
Totally agree it has similarity of fear of future problems like how circumcision is created in hopes of preventing future problems.

I had no issues with my wisdom teeth but with all of the many surgeries I went too in my sophmore year of highschool mom said lets get rid of those wisdom teeth because I don't want you to have to go through the pain I went through because those wisdom teeth became very painful for me.

So with me a minor you had to go along with what mom said so I couldn't say No to that just like I couldn't say No to a Repeat Jaw surgery ( my chin was too front facing hence the first jaw surgery to line up the teeth ) Mom saw that it was not even since she's a perfectionist so it bugged her so into the 2nd jaw surgery now I get severe case of TMJ and tons of locked jaws off & on. Everytime I chew it hurts so bad it gives me a headache, if I eat too quickly i may start to gag .
post #18 of 48
I didn't have my wisdom teeth pulled just because, but I did end up having one pulled a couple years ago. DH still had his as an adult, too, so I guess I didn't realize it was that common to have them taken out for no reason. But then, to relate it to circumcision - the males in my life growing up and once I met DH were intact, so I don't have experience with that being the norm.
post #19 of 48
DH and I have actually talked about this. My wisdom teeth were removed because my parents forced me to have braces against my will and then didn't want the wisdom teeth to mess up their expensive orthodontic work. It was a horrible experience where I was not given a say and not treated with respect as a person while four healthy parts of my body were removed. At least it hasn't impaired my body's proper functioning as a circumcision would.

DH still has his. He's got cavities in 2 of them, and the dentist wants them out. DH doesn't want to get them removed. We went TF when DD got a cavity, and DH is hoping that if he eats well, they won't cause a problem. If they ever get really bad, he'll get rid of them but never as a preventative measure for something that may happen in the future, even if it is pretty likely. That's how he feels, and it's his body.

I think we can take a lesson from that for our sons. If they look at the research and think that there would be a benefit to removing their foreskins, more power to them. Even if the benefits did outweigh the risks (or if the parents think that they do), it's his choice what risks he wants to take with his own body. We parents can help him keep it clean and keep him from being exposed to STD's until he's old enough to decide if cutting off his foreskin is part of how he wants to take care of himself.
post #20 of 48
I have thought about this as well, although not as a correlation to RIC. My DH is from eastern Europe, and he has all four of his wisdom teeth. His mother and grandmother have theirs as well. My mother only developed one wisdom tooth, which she has. I am not sure that mine were impacted, but from the x-rays, two of them were pushing at an angle underneath my back molars, and would have caused problems if they had ever begun to erupt. I don't know about the other two. I wasn't really informed when I had them out at 18. That was the sickest I had ever been in my life up to that point, it was terrible.

I wonder how the US relates to other developed countries in terms of wisdom teeth (and teeth in general), jaw bone size, number of teeth developing on average, and diet. I have a feeling (but that is all it is) that one indicator of our poor diet in the US for several generations now is directly related to our wisdom teeth problems, and by extension, our tendency to routinely extract them.
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