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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD003879.

Interventions for treating asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth in adolescents and adults.

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  • 1Preventive and Curative Dentistry, Radboud University Medical Centre, Philips van Leydenlaan 25, P.O. Box 9101, NL-6500HB, Nijmegen, Netherlands, 6500 HB.



The prophylactic removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth is defined as the (surgical) removal of wisdom teeth in the absence of local disease. Impacted wisdom teeth have been associated with pathological changes, such as inflammation of the gums around the tooth, root resorption, gums- and alveolar bone disease, damage of the adjacent teeth, the development of cysts and tumours. Several other reasons to justify prophylactic removal have also been given. Wisdom teeth do not always fulfil a functional role in the mouth. When surgical removal is carried out in older patients the risk of more postoperative complications, pain and discomfort increases. Nevertheless, in most developed countries the prophylactic removal of trouble-free wisdom teeth, either impacted or fully erupted, has long been considered as 'appropriate care'. Prudent decision-making, with adherence to specified indicators for removal, may reduce the number of surgical procedures by 60% or more. It has been suggested that watchful monitoring of asymptomatic wisdom teeth may be an appropriate strategy.


To evaluate the effect of prophylactic removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth in adolescents and adults compared with the retention of these wisdom teeth.


The following electronic databases were searched:The Cochrane Oral Health Group Trials Register (4 August 2004), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (1966 to 4 August 2004), PubMed (1966 to 4 August 2004), EMBASE (1974 to 4 August 2004). There was no restriction on language. Key journals were handsearched. An attempt was made to identify ongoing and unpublished trials.


All randomised or controlled clinical trials (RCTs/CCTs) comparing the effect of prophylactic removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth with no-treatment (retention).


Assessment of relevance, validity and data extraction were conducted in duplicate and independently by three reviewers. Where uncertainty existed, authors were contacted for additional information about randomisation and withdrawals. A quality assessment of the trials was carried out.


Only three trials were identified that satisfied the review selection criteria. Two were completed RCTs and both assessed the influence of prophylactic removal on late incisor crowding in adolescents. One ongoing RCT was identified, but the researchers were unable to provide any data. They intend to publish in the near future and information received will be included in updates. Although both completed trials met the inclusion criteria of the review, regarding participants characteristics, interventions and outcomes assessed, different outcomes measures were assessed which prevented pooling of data.


No evidence was found to support or refute routine prophylactic removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth in adults. There is some reliable evidence that suggests that the prophylactic removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth in adolescents neither reduces nor prevents late incisor crowding.

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