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Myths About Wisdom Teeth: Third Molar Extraction Can Actually Improve Your Taste Function

Extraction of wisdom teeth is a common practice and a fairly safe procedure.

In a new study, people who had their wisdom teeth extracted years back showed a three to 10 percent improvement in their ability to taste. Read on to the common myths and facts about wisdom teeth.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : July 2, 2021 11:35 AM IST

It has been generally believed that removal of wisdom teeth, known as third molars, can have adverse effects on taste, although the effects dissipate over time. But a new Penn Medicine study has challenged this notion. The study, published in the journal Chemical Senses, found that patients who had their wisdom teeth extracted actually had improved tasting abilities decades after having the surgery.

In the study, the participants who had received third molar extractions over the course of 20 years showed, on average, a three to 10 percent improvement in their ability to taste, compared to the control group who had not received third molar extractions.

The study has shown that taste function can actually slightly improve between the time patients have surgery and up to 20 years later, said senior author Richard L. Doty, PhD, director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He added that the finding deserves further investigation to better understand why the taste function is enhanced and what it may mean clinically.

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Debunking Common Myths About Wisdom Teeth

Usually, the third molars emerge sometime between the ages of 17 and 25. Because they appear at a mature age, they're called "wisdom" teeth. But there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about wisdom teeth. Below are some common myths about wisdom teeth, along with the facts.

Myth 1: We All Have Wisdom Teeth

Fact: This is not true. Surprisingly, some people do not have wisdom teeth at all or were never born with them. Some may have third molar teeth underneath their gums that never erupt while others may have one or two erupt.

Myth 2: Wisdom Teeth Should Be Removed Early

Fact: It is believed that if wisdom teeth are not removed early, they will cause crowding or lead to discomfort and pain. This is false you don't need to remove your wisdom teeth if they come in properly aligned and are healthy. However, extraction might be necessary in case of jaw damage, damage to other teeth, inflamed gums, sinus problems or decay.

Myth 3: Wisdom Teeth Have No Purpose

Fact: Wisdom teeth perform the same work of biting and chewing just like your other teeth. According to anthropologists, early humans needed wisdom teeth to consume rough and coarse food. But evolutionary biologists believe that wisdom teeth have become functionless, as today's diets are easier to chew without them.

Myth 4: Wisdom Teeth Extraction Is Dangerous

Fact: There are risks to all surgeries, including wisdom teeth extraction surgery. Dentists say removing wisdom teeth is a common practice and a fairly safe procedure. Patients usually don't have any complications related to wisdom teeth extraction. Rarely, complications like painful dry socket, or exposure of bone, infection in the socket or damage to nearby teeth, nerves, jawbone or sinuses, may occur.

Myth 5: There's No Need to Remove Pain-Free Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Fact: A wisdom tooth is considered "impacted" if it gets stuck under your gum or doesn't have enough room to break through the gum. Even if they are painless, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to complications like infections, tooth decay, damage to neighbouring teeth, cysts formation, crowding of nearby teeth, gum disease, etc. Because of these potential risks, your dentist may suggest removal of impacted wisdom teeth, even if they don't cause symptoms.

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