From the Fall 2016 issue of For Your Benefit pdf format of Fall 2016 issue of For Your Benefit

Guest Editorial by Dr. David J Guarrera, D.D.S., Vice President of MetLife Dental

What are “Wisdom Teeth”?

Wisdom teeth, also known as “third molars,” typically appear in the mouth between the ages of 17 and 21. Most people have four third molars, but some people may have just one, two, three, or even none.

What is an impacted third molar?

A third molar is considered to be impacted when it fails to erupt or only partially erupts through the gum tissue. Impacted third molars are very common and often cause no pain or problems.

Should I have my third molars removed?

There is a growing body of clinical research that indicates it is not always necessary to remove wisdom teeth. You should discuss your options with your dentist before making any decisions regarding their removal.

What does the American Dental Association say about the removal of third molars?

According to the American Dental Association, every patient is unique and wisdom teeth may only need to be removed when there is evidence of changes in the mouth such as:

  • pain
  • infection
  • cysts
  • tumors
  • damage to adjacent teeth
  • gum disease
  • tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth)

Is anesthesia necessary when third molars are removed?

Often when multiple third molars are removed, the dentist or oral surgeon may use general anesthesia or IV sedation in conjunction with the removal of the teeth because of the extent of the surgery.  When one third molar is removed, or if the extractions are not complex, a local anesthetic may suffice to control pain.

Questions to ask your dentist about the removal of third molars:

  • Do I have third molars, and if so, how many?
  • Why should I or shouldn’t I have my third molar(s) removed?
  • What are the possible side effects and risks of having my third molar(s) removed?
  • What are the risks if I choose to keep my third molar(s)?

Dr. David Guarrera, D.D.S., is the National Clinical Director and Vice President for MetLife’s Dental and Vision Product unit. In this role, Dr. Guarrera is responsible for clinical policy and market positioning strategy.  He is also responsible for MetLife’s dental provider networks and the MetLife Quality Initiatives Program that includes patient education and wellness. 

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .