My husband had a wisdom tooth pulled yesterday and part of it broke when it was pulled. The oral surgeon left the broken part in his mouth and said it wouldn’t hurt anything. Is that true?
—Rhonda from Iowa
Your oral surgeon is right—it won’t hurt anything. I did that myself sometimes—leave a root fragment that was way down by the nerve or something.
There is a small risk that there could be trouble with the piece, but there are occasions when the risk of going after an embedded piece is far greater than the tiny risk of leaving it in. The broken piece is usually a root tip that may have a crook in the end of it or another feature that could require drilling away bone to dislodge it. Those root tips are often positioned near the nerve that goes to your lower jaw and lip. The fear is that this nerve will be damaged by aggressively going after the root tip so it is better to just leave it.
Remember that the oral surgeon has to accept responsibility for the outcome. The law holds him or her to this. So before that decision is made, the oral surgeon weighs that in his or her mind, because if there really is any trouble later, the surgeon will have to defend that decision before his or her peers.
I hope this is helpful.
—Dr. David Hall