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Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 1990 Apr;97(4):323-35.

A long-term study of the relationship of third molars to changes in the mandibular dental arch.

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Department of Orthodontics, Universidad Intercontinental, Mexico City, Mexico.


The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship of third molars to changes in the mandibular dental arch. The sample for this study consisted of four groups and subgroups. The groups consisted of premolar extraction treated, nonextraction treated with initial generalized spacing, nonextraction treated, and serial extraction untreated subjects. The subgroups were divided into persons who had mandibular third molars that were either impacted, erupted into function, congenitally absent, or extracted at least 10 years before postretention records. The mean postretention time interval was 13 years, with a range of 10 to 28 years. The mean postretention age was 28 years 6 months, with a range of 18 years 6 months to 39 years 4 months. Two-way analysis of variance with repeated measures was used to compare the changes over time (before treatment, at end of active treatment, and after retention) of groups and third molar subgroups. With time, mandibular incisor irregularity increased while arch length and intercanine width decreased. The eruption patterns of mandibular incisors and first molars were similarly dispersed in all groups studied. The findings between the subgroups in which mandibular third molars were impacted, erupted into function, congenitally absent, or extracted 10 years before postretention records revealed no significant differences between any of the subgroups for the parameters studied. No significant differences in mandibular growth were found between the third molar subgroups; this suggests that persons with third molars erupted into satisfactory function do not have a significantly different mandibular growth pattern than those whose third molars are impacted or congenitally missing. In the majority of cases some degree of mandibular incisor crowding took place after retention, but this change was not significantly different between third molar subgroups. This finding suggests that the recommendation for mandibular third molar removal with the objective of alleviating or preventing mandibular incisor irregularity may not be justified.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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