Most of your adult teeth come in before you’re a teenager. So why the big delay in getting your wisdom teeth – something not seen in other primates? A new study in Science Advances offers an explanation at last.
To solve the riddle, researchers created 3D biomechanical skulls across the growth period of more than 20 primate species. Combined with details about each species’ jaw growth rate, these models showed why humans are such late bloomers.
It is the coordination between facial growth and the mechanics of the chewing muscles that determines not just where but when adult molars emerge. This delicate dance results in molars coming in only when enough of a “mechanically safe” space is created.
Because our faces tend to be shorter and our growth periods tend to be longer than other primates, our 3rd molars – the clinical term for wisdom teeth – come in much later.
Molars that emerge “ahead of schedule” would do so in a space that, when chewed on, would disrupt the fine-tuned function of the entire chewing apparatus by causing damage to the jaw joint.
These days, 3rd molars increasingly come into much smaller dental arches than our ancestors had. This can result in crowding or the wisdom teeth being impacted. Because of this, routine extraction has become common, even as organizations such as the American Public Health Association have argued that they should only be removed if they’re actually causing problems.
In fact, routine extraction is one reason why so many people develop cavitations in those surgical sites – pockets of infection and dead, decaying tissue below healthy-looking gums. Drs. Tom Levy and Hal Huggins found that nearly 90% of those sites harbored these hidden infections.
Suffice it to say, when 3rd molars – or any teeth, for that matter – need to be removed, the surgeon must be sure to completely remove the periodontal ligament and properly clean the bone to keep cavitations from developing.
And that brings us to another new study, which reviewed the science of ozone for improving outcomes when removing impacted wisdom teeth.
Just published in JADA, the review focused on the four out of 133 studies that met the authors’ criteria. All were randomized controlled trials that compared the use of ozone to placebo for reducing post-surgical complications such as pain, swelling, and trismus (lockjaw).
While they found little evidence that the ozone helped with swelling or trismus, they did find that it helped reduce pain, improve quality of life, and limit patients’ use of painkillers following the surgery. There were no adverse effects reported.
Evidence suggests that adjuvant ozone application can offer some beneﬁt for reducing pain, improving quality of life, and decreasing mean analgesic intake after IMTM extraction, but it is not effective for reducing facial swelling and trismus.
At the same time, however, the authors noted some real limitations of the research to date and note that more robust research remains to be done.
That said, reducing post-op pain is hardly the only reason to use ozone during surgery. It’s also a powerful disinfectant, controlling infection. It supports robust immune function and improves circulation. Other tools such as PRF and cold lasers can further help reduce pain and swelling while also supporting the body’s natural healing abilities.
Ozone doesn’t have to do it all – only do what it does so well.