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Anesthesia Prevents Lower Wisdom Teeth from Developing

Update Date: Apr 03, 2013 05:01 PM EDT
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Dental anesthesia given to young children has been linked to missing lower wisdom teeth. Researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine discovered an association between the injections of local dental anesthesia into children age two to six and developing wisdom teeth.

"It is intriguing to think that something as routine as local anesthesia could stop wisdom teeth from developing. This is the first study in humans showing an association between a routinely- administered, minimally-invasive clinical procedure and arrested third molar growth," said Dr. Anthony R. Silvestri, clinical professor in the Department of Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

Wisdom teeth do not begin to develop buds until the age of two to six and then do not emerge as molars until the late teens or early adulthood. Due to their late development, wisdom teeth become more vulnerable to injury.

A developing wisdom tooth is merely covered by a thin layer of soft tissue. When the bud first forms, it is no bigger than the diameter of the anesthetic dental needle which is often injected too close to the developing wisdom tooth when treating cavities.

Researchers at Tufts used patient records who had previously taken dental x-rays three to four years before they had even received initial treatment at Tufts Pediatric Dental Clinic. A total of 220 patient records were analyzed for 439 potential sites where wisdom teeth could develop in the lower jaw.

The control group, group one, analyzed 376 sites from patients who had not received anesthesia on the lower jaw. The comparison group, group two, studied 63 sites from patients who had previously received anesthesia.

When compared, patients from group one who did not undergo anesthesia displayed 1.9 percent of the sites missing wisdom tooth buds. In contrast, those who had previously received anesthesia in group two displayed 7.9 percent to be missing wisdom tooth buds, making them more than four times likely to be missing buds.

"The incidence of missing wisdom teeth was significantly higher in the group that had received dental anesthesia; statistical evidence suggests that this did not happen by chance alone. We hope our findings stimulate research using larger sample sizes and longer periods of observation to confirm our findings and help better understand how wisdom teeth can be stopped from developing," Silvestri stated.

"Dentists have been giving local anesthesia to children for nearly 100 years and may have been preventing wisdom teeth from forming without even knowing it. Our findings give hope that a procedure preventing third molar growth can be developed."

Researchers' findings from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine have been published in the April issue of The Journal of the American DentalAssociation.  

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