Summary of: Experience in third molar surgery
  • There is a relationship between the surgeon's experience and postoperative complications in third molar surgery.
  • With careful assessment and treatment planning postoperative complications may be minimised.
  • Knowledge of general surgical principles is often learned best through direct observation and/or assisting senior colleagues, building upon information gained from written material.

Background The relationship between a surgeon's experience and the incidence of postoperative complications after third molar surgery is assessed in this prospective clinical study. Previous reports have shown this to be one the most influential factors on surgical outcome.

In this study, 3,236 patients underwent surgical removal of impacted third molars. All patients included in the study were reviewed and the various postoperative complications were recorded and statistically compared to the surgeon's grade. Patients' demographics and pre-operative radiographic findings were also noted.

The surgical procedures were performed by seven specialists and 12 residents. In the group of patients treated by the residents, the incidence of postoperative complications was found to be significant with regards to trismus, infection, alveolar osteitis and paraesthesia of the lingual and inferior alveolar nerves. In the group of patients treated by specialists, the incidence of postoperative bleeding was found to be statistically significant.

There is without doubt a relationship between the surgeon's experience and the postoperative complication in third molar surgery. The impact of the findings from this study upon the profession, education and research is as yet unrealised. The ethical and moral implications of our findings are discussed.