Dental anesthesia may interrupt development of wisdom teeth in children

April 3, 2013, Tufts University

Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine have discovered a statistical association between the injection of local dental anesthesia 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 anesthesia 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 could stop 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.

Wisdom teeth are potentially vulnerable to injury because their development – unlike all other teeth – does not begin until well after birth. 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 . Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, but for those who do, the teeth often become impacted or problematic.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reports that nine out of 10 people will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, which can cause bad breath, pain, and/or infection. For this reason, many dentists recommend surgery to remove wisdom teeth to prevent disease or infection.

A developing wisdom tooth, called a bud, is vulnerable to injury for a relatively long time because it is tiny, not covered by bone, and only covered by a thin layer of soft tissue. When a tooth bud first forms, it is no bigger than the diameter of the dental needle itself. The soft tissue surrounding the budding tooth is close to where a needle penetrates when routine dental anesthesia is injected in the lower jaw, for example when treating cavities.

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 analyzed 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 anesthesia on the lower jaw where wisdom teeth could develop. Group two, the comparison group (63 sites), contained x-rays from patients who had received anesthesia.

In the control group, 1.9% of the sites did not have x-ray evidence of wisdom tooth buds. In contrast, 7.9% of the sites in the comparison group – those who had received anesthesia – 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 anesthesia; 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 anesthesia 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."

Silvestri has previously published preliminary research on third molar tooth development, showing that third molars can be stopped from developing when non- or minimally-invasive techniques are applied to tooth buds.

Explore further: Tiny tots in the dentist's chair among changes in pediatric dentistry

More information: Swee J, Silvestri AR, Finkelman MD, Rich AP, Alexander SA, Loo CY. 2013. Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block and Third-Molar Agenesis: A Retrospective Clinical Study. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 144(4), 389-395.

Related Stories

Tiny tots in the dentist's chair among changes in pediatric dentistry

May 18, 2012
(HealthDay) -- If you've been to the dentist with your children recently, you may have noticed that things have changed since you were a kid.

From one generation to the next, dental care changes

May 18, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Stephanie Crowe, a mother of three from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., still remembers dreading a visit to the dentist as a young girl. It was often a painful experience, and her family's dentist showed little empathy ...

Stem cells grow fully functional new teeth

July 13, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from Japan recently published a paper in PLoS One describing their successful growth and transplantation of new teeth created from the stem cells of mice.

Dental discovery to benefit forensic practitioners and anthropologists

March 7, 2012
Forensic practitioners and anthropologists will be among those to benefit from new University of Kent research on the dental development of humans.

Tooth movement an alternative to bone transplants

October 11, 2011
Although replacing lost teeth often involves artificially building up the jaw, researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are now showcasing a new method whereby teeth are instead moved ...

Recommended for you

Painless dental lasers can render teeth cavity-resistant

November 21, 2017
Almost as soon as lasers were invented in the 1960s, curious dentists wondered if these powerful forms of light could be used on teeth, though those early lasers were much too crude for any useful dental work.

Nanodiamonds show promise for aiding recovery from root canal

October 23, 2017
People who undergo root canals may soon have a tiny but powerful ally that could prevent infection after treatment.

Research shows aspirin could repair tooth decay

September 8, 2017
Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have discovered that aspirin could reverse the effects of tooth decay resulting in a reduction in the need for fillings. Currently about 7 million fillings are provided by the NHS ...

New dental imaging method uses squid ink to fish for gum disease

September 7, 2017
Squid ink might be a great ingredient to make black pasta, but it could also one day make getting checked for gum disease at the dentist less tedious and even painless. By combining squid ink with light and ultrasound, a ...

A new dental restoration composite proves more durable than the conventional material

August 21, 2017
Fewer trips to the dentist may be in your future, and you have mussels to thank.

Small molecule inhibitor prevents or impedes tooth cavities in a preclinical model

August 10, 2017
University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have created a small molecule that prevents or impedes tooth cavities in a preclinical model. The inhibitor blocks the function of a key virulence enzyme in an oral bacterium, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.