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No wisdom in tooth removal
No wisdom in tooth removal

Perth dentists are pulling wisdom teeth at unprecedented rates, a study claims, despite international research warning the procedure can do more harm than good.

A paper to be published in the British Dental Journal says WA has one of the highest known rates of impacted tooth removal in the world.

The study questions whether Australia needs strong guidelines for dentists making clear when wisdom teeth should be pulled.

Researchers at the University of WA compared hospital admission rates between WA, Britain and France for embedded and impacted teeth over a 10-year period between 1999 and 2009.

The paper found the rate of hospital admission for impacted teeth in WA was nearly 740 per cent higher than in England and 42 per cent higher than in France.

Research in Britain in the 1990s suggested the removal of wisdom teeth had little effect on crowding of the teeth, one of the reasons dentists give for their removal.

The study led to new British advice being drawn up recommending third molars be pulled in extreme cases only and healthy teeth be left alone.

"Maybe it is time Australia looks to other places for stronger practice guidelines and to reflect on practice in WA, the differences are substantial and certainly need examining closely," one of the paper's authors, Professor Marc Tennant, told _The West Australian _. "Interestingly, wisdom teeth extraction is predominated by teenagers from the city and those with insurance and are undertaken in private day-surgery settings."

The paper's authors say their findings will be of interest to healthcare authorities and insurance companies.

But oral and facial surgeon Paul Sambrook rejected any suggestion Australian dentists were removing teeth without good reason.

"We have several deaths per annum from people who have teeth left in that should have been removed," he said. Dr Sambrook, who also chairs the board of studies for the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons, said it would be "fraught" to compare figures from Britain's National Health Service with Australian data.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Dental Association confirmed there were no Australian guidelines as there were in Britain on wisdom tooth removal.

Stuart Gairns, chief executive of the WA branch of the ADA, said he was unaware of any evidence of high rates of wisdom tooth removal in the State.