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Nothing but the Tooth column: Talk to dentist about COVID concerns

Dr. Richard Greenberg
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Cheboygan Daily Tribune

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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Q: I have an impacted wisdom tooth that the gum is receding from. It has not yet caused me any discomfort. However, I have had two sets of X-rays and it needs to come out. I have contacted an oral surgeon and I am going to schedule removal. Should I wait till I am vaccinated against COVID before removal? I have been taking extreme measures during 2020.

- M.J.R.

A: This is an excellent question and my answer will have relevance (I believe) to many others.

When you talk of the need to extract your third molar (wisdom tooth), I am concerned as to the rationale. By definition, if a wisdom tooth is impacted, fully or partially, it has not yet erupted into your oral cavity (mouth). If this is the case, then it cannot be indicated for extraction as a result of a receding gum. That is the fact.

Now, you also say that there is something on X-ray that indicates the need for extraction on a somewhat urgent basis. I agree that contacting the oral surgeon was the proper thing to do, but you need to have more information before you proceed. I assume that your general dentist has made the referral and therefore must have seen something more than you are aware of. There may possibly be a large amount of decay that may be concerning or there may be damage to the adjacent tooth that is the problem. But whatever it is, you need more information as to how urgent is the need to extract.

I would say that most if not all dental offices that are seeing patients at this time, are compliant with COVID restriction protocols. However, even with that, there is always a chance of infection, albeit very minimal.

My advice is to first find the reason for urgency and if the extraction need is more preventive in nature, then I would advise you to wait until you have a vaccine to be completely sure of your decision. Remember that the vaccine approved for use needs two doses, one month apart to be sure that it is effective. If the extraction need is not preventive and your health is at risk, then you and your general dentist, in conjunction with the oral surgeon, can give you the best advice.

If you have further questions, after you proceed as I have indicated above, please advise and I will be sure to answer immediately.

Dr. Richard Greenberg of Ipswich practiced dentistry for 45 years after having attended dental school at Columbia University, where he was later an associate clinical professor of restorative dentistry and facilitator of the course of ethics. Do you have a dental question or comment about the column? Email him at dr.richard@nothingbutthetooth.org.