Most studies pertaining to the relationship of third molars to periodontal conditions have been conducted on small patient samples. Elter, et al assessed data in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine if there is an association between visible third molars (VTM) and periodontal pathology affecting the adjacent second molar. Data on oral health were obtained from 5,831 people aged 18 to 34 years, with the objective of assessing periodontal disease in 2 randomly selected quadrants, one maxillary and one mandibular, in patients with VTM. The study found that the presence of a VTM was associated with 1.3 times the odds of having gingival bleeding and twice the odds of probing depth of > 5 mm on the adjacent second molar compared with absence of a VTM. Data also indicate that there is an association between VTM and periodontal defects more anterior in the examined quadrant, with the mandible affected more often. Smoking was associated with double the risk of having a probing depth of > 5 mm on a second molar. The authors suggest that the relationship between third molars and periodontal disease pathogenesis deserves further study based on longitudinal populations.
(Source: Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Vol. 62, No. 4, 2004)