You know the story about the man who goes into hospital for an examination of his left knee and ends up having his right leg amputated? That nearly happened to me, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The story starts about a month and a half ago when I went to the dental clinic for a routine checkup. The only thing that the dentist could find that needed treatment was the wisdom tooth on the left upper hand side (let's dispose with technical terms such as maxilla and mandible). I was surprised as I thought that I had had all my wisdom teeth extracted; it turns out that I had the teeth on the right hand side extracted but not on the left. The tooth was decaying and as there was no corresponding tooth on the lower side (the jaw), the dentist thought it best that the tooth be extracted.
She tried to take x-rays of the offending tooth but because of its position, she wasn't able to get a good picture, so she sent me to get a panoramic x-ray of my teeth. This I did, which I returned to the clinic; then I waited for the expert to decide whether the extraction could be performed in the clinic or in hospital (both of my children have had wisdom teeth extracted in the oral surgery department of the hospital).
Yesterday I kept my appointment with the expert; he looked at the x-ray and saw a wisdom tooth embedded on the lower left hand side, at 90 degrees to the rest of my teeth: a perfect case for surgical extraction. He wrote an explanatory note for the surgeon at the hospital and sent me on my way. Outside, I was stunned for a few moments until I recalled that my regular dentist had sent me for a panoramic x-ray because she couldn't get a good picture of the decayed tooth. If she could see the tooth then it couldn't be embedded!
I went back to the expert and explained why I had been referred to him in the first place. He consulted my dental notes, saw what my dentist had written and confirmed that he had indeed been looking at the wrong tooth. Instead of an operation, I needed a relatively simple extraction, which he could do in half an hour. Crisis averted.
He still thinks that the embedded tooth should be extracted, but as long as it's not causing any problems, there's no real need to do so. Dentists are divided on whether such teeth should be extracted as a manner of course. The surgical extraction of the wisdom tooth on the upper right hand side some 25 years ago caused me many after-affects, including low blood pressure for a few years. That's not something that I will willingly undergo again if there is no real acute cause.