Comparison of clinical treatment decisions with US National Institutes of Health consensus indications for lower third molar removal
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Treatment decisions about lower third molar surgery have important clinical and cost implications. Although indications for surgery have been the subject of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus conference at which several unambiguous criteria were agreed, no prospective investigations have been carried out to compare clinic treatment decisions with these consensus criteria. Treatment decisions made by six Hospital Service oral surgeons were therefore evaluated for 72 consecutive patients (28 men, 44 women) aged 15-44 years (mean age 25 years), referred for lower third molar assessment. The presence of local disease; recurrent pericoronitis; caries not amenable to restorative measures; follicular cyst formation; internal/external resorption and periodontal disease was recorded by an independent observer immediately after treatment planning had been completed. Of the 139 third molars present, 55 were unerupted, 79 partially erupted and 5 fully erupted. Thirty patients had been scheduled for surgery under general anaesthesia (GA), 36 under local anaesthesia and six patients had not been scheduled for surgery. A total of 42 teeth, according to NIH consensus criteria, had no indications for removal, of which 27 had been scheduled for surgery. These excluded disease-free contralateral teeth that had been scheduled for removal under GA. When a single episode of pericoronitis was excluded as a valid indication, 39 teeth did not meet criteria for removal but had been scheduled for surgery. It was concluded that two-thirds of lower third molars not meeting NIH consensus criteria for surgery had been scheduled for removal. The reasons for this, which may include inappropriate criteria, require further research.
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