Saturday, June 22, 2013

Changing wisdom on wisdom teeth


By Yoon Ja-young

Wisdom teeth have been regarded as useless, if not bothersome, as people generally think they only cause cavities and pain. According to dentists, however, the tooth can work as good substitute for a dental implant usually made of titanium.

The wisdom tooth usually appears at around 20 years of age. It is called “Sarangni,” or love tooth in Korea, meaning that the tooth appears when people are around the age to know about love. They are often angled forward, causing pain. According to a research by Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, an anthropologist at the University of Kent in England, it has to do with evolution. Our ancestors used to have longer jawbones as they ate raw and unprocessed, hard items. As people came to have cooked and softer food, however, our jawbones became shorter, not enough to accommodate the many teeth we previously needed.

Wisdom teeth are usually taken out, over concerns about cavities or gum disease, especially when the tooth is angled. In an era where many people lose teeth due to sweets, however, these wisdom teeth can be useful, according to research by Prof. Kook Yoon-ah at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, Prof. Lee Won at Uijeongbu St. Mary’s Hospital, Prof. Kim Seong-hun at Kyunghee University and Prof. Chung Kyu-rhim at Ajou University.

For patients whose first molar is missing, they moved the second molar into the space, and the third molar, or wisdom tooth, into the space of the second molar. When they examined 1,179 patients who visited hospitals from 2010 to 2012, 66 had wisdom teeth that could be used as substitutes. Among them, 36 got successful treatment.
The left photo shows the first molar of a patient is missing. In the right photo, the second molar and the wisdom tooth were used to fill in for the missing first molar, instead of using implant.
/ Courtesy of Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital

Currently, dental implants made of titanium are the most common treatment for missing teeth, but by using their own wisdom tooth, patients can expect a better prognosis while lowering the cost — to about one third of the dental implant. The research team showed that even angled wisdom teeth can be used to replace the molar.

“Patients who have the first molar missing have the risk of losing the second molar as well as the second tooth can tilt into the empty space. Hence, it is recommended that you visit a dental clinic soon in order to keep the remaining teeth healthy,” Prof. Kook said. “The method using wisdom teeth is more effective in treatment while the cost is lower, as you use your own tooth,” he added.

The research was published in the February edition of the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics.

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