Third Molar Morbidity Among Troops Deployed

A few articles have been recently released in late 2010 discussing third molars (wisdom teeth) among those serving in the military.

Guidelines from NICE and SIGN as stated over at due state that those who have a certain occupation such as in the armed forces should certainly strongly consider having wisdom teeth removed before they cause problems due to not being able to easily have access to dental treatment.

A paper was put out in December 2010 titled “The Impact of Retained Third Molars on the Deployed Airman.” It is over at this link here.

The article is written by Robert E. Langsten and William J. Dunn and states that as many as 22% of all emergency department visits at a deployed Expeditionary Medical Support facility can be attributed to dental problems.

The article mentions how there is no reliable method to predict when asymptomatic partially erupted third molars will become painful. Thus Air Force dental providers should carefully consider that not every medical facility in theater has an oral surgeon on staff and that air evacuation/transport of these patients can be expensive and time consuming.

The article recommends that each patient should be questioned as to whether or not they have noticed pain in any third molars.

It further recommends that more research on how much time and money is needed to treat patients who present with symptoms of their retained wisdom teeth in the theatre. Further methods for predicting future problems of impacted third molars requires research.

Another article appeared in August 2010 titled ” Third molar-related morbidity in deployed Service personnel,” by J. Combes and et al. in the British Dental Journal (209, E6).

This article said that access to dental surgeons in the theatre is not always possible. It further stated that some of the patients in the study had documented evidence of pericoronitis yet did not have the wisdom teeth extracted. Some patients required transport by helicopter when presenting with symptoms in theatre and some were not able to receive prompt treatment.

Hence it is important that service personnel are asked about their third molars prior to deployment and to complete treatment if necessary.

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