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Wisdom tooth surgery may come with serious risks

It is common for teenagers and young adults across America, including in Rhode Island, to have their wisdom teeth pulled. In most cases, the procedure results in little more than a few days of mild discomfort and swelling. However, there may be more risks involving wisdom teeth surgery than people realize. Some complications may cause lifelong pain, while others can be more serious or life-threatening.

What are the most common risks associated with wisdom tooth extraction? According to ABC News, at least 11,000 patients each year suffer from permanent nerve damage, which may cause numbness, tingling, loss of function or chronic pain. Many patients develop “dry socket,” which is a painful condition at the site of the extraction that can cause infections or further damage without treatment. In rarer cases, a patient’s jaw may be broken, infections may spread to internal organs or the patient can develop serious bleeding issues.

General anesthesia that is given to remove impacted teeth may also cause problems, such as allergic reactions or oxygen deprivation. In one tragic case, a 17-year-old girl died after she was deprived of oxygen and went into cardiac arrest. In a lawsuit, her parents accused the surgical staff of negligently failing to react to the medical emergency in time to save the teenager’s life.

Is wisdom tooth extraction a necessary procedure for most people? The issue needs more research, according to the Center for Advancing Health. Some dental professionals insist that the benefits of wisdom tooth surgery outweigh the risks. Impacted molars, they say, may damage adjacent teeth or cause infected abscesses or tooth decay. However, others say that impacted wisdom teeth cause problems in only about 12 percent of cases. The American Public Health Association suggests that wisdom teeth should only be removed if there is a clear need to do so.

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