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Are there any risks associated with wisdom teeth extraction?

You or your child might soon be preparing to have wisdom teeth removed – a procedure that is overwhelmingly common in the United States, including in Massachusetts. You will likely not have any post-operative symptoms much worse than some pain and swelling for a few days. However, there are some risks that you may want to be aware of.

Many dental professionals recommend that wisdom teeth are removed as they grow in, or just before they erupt from the gums. The reason for this is that many people don’t have enough room in their mouths to accommodate the third molars, and oral health issues can result. These include impacted molars that may cause nerve damage to nearby teeth, tooth decay, bone damage and infected abscesses. However, the American Public Health Association recommends that wisdom teeth should not be removed unless impaction is definitely causing problems. In most cases, impacted wisdom teeth present few problems, if any.

According to ABC News, the most common complication that may result from wisdom tooth removal is nerve damage, which may permanently cause tingling, numbness or pain. Over 11,000 people every year develop nerve damage after undergoing the surgery. Other complications may include infections, serious bleeding, a broken jaw or issues involving anesthesia.

In fact, general anesthesia has been blamed in at least one fatality during wisdom tooth surgery. The medication used to put patients under may cause an allergic reaction or oxygen deprivation. In one case, a mother and father sued an oral surgeon and nurse after their teenage daughter went into cardiac arrest during general anesthesia and died.

Some medical researchers say that more research is needed to determine whether the benefits of wisdom tooth extraction outweigh the risks. Before any surgical procedure, it may be wise to understand the risks involved and to discuss with your doctor whether or not the surgery is necessary.

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