Objective Pain associated with third molar (wisdom) teeth is a common cause of morbidity for soldiers in the United Kingdom and on operational deployments. This study compared the incidence of third molar symptoms between soldiers serving in Iraq and soldiers stationed in barracks in Northern Ireland and assessed if pre-deployment screening could be improved.
Method Data was collected in a prospective cohort study over five consecutive months. Dental officers recorded each time an Army soldier presented with third molar related symptoms.
Results 1% of soldiers in Iraq had third molar related symptoms in this time compared to 1.4% of those stationed in Northern Ireland. The range of pathologies and teeth affected were similar between locations. In both locations approximately 40% of teeth that caused problems had been symptomatic before and 13 -16% had untreated decay.
Conclusions This study suggests that soldiers experience a lower incidence of symptoms related to third molars when in Iraq compared to Northern Ireland (P<0.033) possibly due to pre-deployment treatment. If ideal pre-deployment screening of third molars was carried out and National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines applied 38% of the Operation Telic group of patient’s problems could have been prevented.
- Third molars
- Wisdom teeth
- cohort Study
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