Impacted wisdom teeth are a common dental problem.
While general dentists can do wisdom tooth extraction, oral surgeons may be better suited to handle complicated impactions.
“In our litigious society it is better to refer anything that can be done better by a specialist, including molar endo,” advised a New York dentist. “It is not worth the trouble, and the patients will love you for referring. You lose patients on whom you do extractions – spoken with 50 years’ experience.”
“I generally only extract impactions as an act of mercy to those who cannot afford an oral surgeon,” said a general dentist. “Anesthesia is the problem, not the removal.”
Jim Du Molin and Julie Frey reveal dentist survey results about impacted wisdom teeth:
A 57% majority of dentists in this survey say impacted teeth should usually — but not always — be removed.
Another 18% feel that they do not need to be automatically removed. Only 25% said impacted wisdom teeth should always be extracted.
Should GPs do the removal?
Three out of four of the doctors in this survey feel general dentists can handle most procedures, while 24% feel impacted wisdom teeth should be removed by specialists.
“Like most procedures, GPs can remove most impactions with proper training. And like most procedures, experience, experience, experience is necessary to provide the patient with a safe, comfortable, predictable outcome,” said a West Virginia dentist.
“Any GP should know his or her clinical boundaries, whether it’s removing impacted wisdom teeth, correcting a bite, or any scope of dentistry. Oral surgeons usually do the procedure quicker and with less trauma to the patient. They are more expensive, though,” said a New York dentist. “If wisdom teeth are buried deep, fully erupted or not symptomatic in any way, they can stay, in my honest opinion.”
There’s lots of variations in wisdom teeth – and there are lots of variations in dentists’ opinions about them.
“Routine removal of wisdom teeth to prevent orthodontic relapse is an unsubstantiated strategy,” said a Vermont orthodontist.
“Advanced training after dental school is usually needed to do advanced impaction removal with the least amount of trauma to the patient, usually with IV sedation,” said an Alaska dentist.
Jim Du Molin added his opinion, from a patient’s point of view: “I definitely like a dentist who’s concerned with reducing the amount of trauma. I could have definitely done with a little less trauma when I got my wisdom teeth removed last year!”