(BlackDoctor.org) — Like any surgery, wisdom tooth extraction carries risks. The most common complication — permanent nerve damage causing numbness of the tongue, lips or cheeks — affects more than 11,000 people annually, according to a 2007 report in the American Journal of Public Health. But the surgery has also been linked to jaw and tooth fractures, brain tissue infections, life-threatening bleeding and hypoxia.
With all the risks, some dentists question whether the extraction surgeries are even necessary.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons strongly recommends that young adults have their wisdom teeth removed to “prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing.” But the science supporting prophylactic extraction is thin.
“Third-molar surgery is a multibillion-dollar industry that generates significant income for the dental profession,” Jay Friedman, a retired California dentist, wrote in the American Journal of Public Health. “It is driven by misinformation and myths that have been exposed before but that continue to be promulgated by the profession.”
American dentists and oral surgeons pull 10 million wisdom teeth each year — an effort that costs more than $3 billion and leads to 11 million days of post-operative discomfort, according to the report.
“At least two thirds of these extractions, associated costs, and injuries are unnecessary, constituting a silent epidemic of [physician-induced] injury that afflicts tens of thousands of people with lifelong discomfort and disability,” Friedman wrote.