Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Are Soldiers at Increased Risk of Third Molar Symptoms when on Operational Tour in Iraq? A Prospective Cohort Study
  1. Major J Breeze, Trainee in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery1 and
  2. AJ Gibbons, Consultant in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery2
  1. 1King’s College Hospital, London SE1 9RT johno_breeze{at}
  2. 2Peterborough District Hospital, Thorpe Road, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE3 6DA


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

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.