When Washington Post writer Laura Hambleton wanted advice on removing her daughter's wisdom teeth, she consulted a wide array of national experts, including Mass General's Dr. Thomas Dodson from the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In her article, which appeared in The Post on June 1st, she examines the controversy over wisdom tooth extraction. Extraction of wisdom teeth, also called third molars, is often characterized as an unnecessary surgical procedure. Dr. Dodson, a national expert on third molar management and outcomes, says "it's not black and white."
Dr. Dodson, who co-authored the April study on third molars published by the British journal Clinical Evidence that looked other published studies on third molars, warns that predicting wisdom tooth behavior is challenging. He reports that 25% of patients with no symptoms actually had evidence of periodontic disease around their wisdom teeth. Furthermore, when explaining that "there are no data" to advise whether or not to remove asymptomatic, disease-free wisdom teeth, Dodson says of his patients, "60 percent elect extraction; 40 percent choose to retain their wisdom teeth and schedule a 2-year follow-up with me."