Dental anesthesia may interrupt development of wisdom teeth in children

Standard pain relief may effect the growth of her wisdom teeth.
Standard pain relief may effect the growth of her wisdom teeth.

Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in the United States have discovered a statistical association between the injection of local dental anaesthesia given to children ages two to six and evidence of missing lower wisdom teeth. The results of this epidemiological study, published in the April issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, suggest that injecting anaesthesia into the gums of young children may interrupt the development of the lower wisdom tooth.

“It is intriguing to think that something as routine as local anaesthesia 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 corresponding author, Anthony R. Silvestri, D.M.D., clinical professor in the department of prosthodontics and operative dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

Between two and six years of age, wisdom tooth (third molar) buds begin to develop in the back four corners of the mouth, and typically emerge in the late teens or early adulthood. Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, but for those who do, the teeth often become impacted or problematic.

Using the Tufts digital dental record system, the researchers identified records of patients who had received treatment in the Tufts pediatric dental clinic between the ages of two and six and who also had a dental x-ray taken three or more years after initial treatment in the clinic. They eliminated records with confounding factors, such as delayed dental development, and analysed a total of 439 sites where wisdom teeth could develop in the lower jaw, from 220 patient records.

Group one, the control group (376 sites), contained x-rays of patients who had not received anaesthesia on the lower jaw where wisdom teeth could develop. Group two, the comparison group (63 sites), contained x-rays from patients who had received anaesthesia.

In the control group, 1.9 per cent of the sites did not have x-ray evidence of wisdom tooth buds. In contrast, 7.9 per cent of the sites in the comparison group – those who had received anaesthesia – did not have tooth buds. The comparison group was 4.35 times more likely to have missing wisdom tooth buds than the control group.

“The incidence of missing wisdom teeth was significantly higher in the group that had received dental anaesthesia; 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 continued. “Dentists have been giving local anaesthesia 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.”

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  1. “Without even knowing it” has our “minimally invasive procedure” had an extremely negative effect in causing partial anodontia and perhaps even peg-shaped lateral incisors ? Stimulating research is most desirable but to imagine that simplistically it will “give hope” may prove to be a Pandora’s box.


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