Wisdom tooth transplantation is a kind of oral surgery in which an extracted wisdom tooth is implanted in another part of the mouth where another tooth is missing. Often performed on teens and tweens who require molar extraction, wisdom tooth transplant surgery is usually successful if the extracted wisdom tooth is implanted in the mouth of the same person as it came from, but rarely successful if the tooth to be implanted comes from another person.
The earliest known tooth transplants occurred in the Caribbean in the 18th century. The teeth transplanted were usually incisors, and they were transplanted for cosmetic purposes. Donors were paid for their teeth. The practice quickly came to an end, however, because the crowns of the transplanted teeth tended to fall off after about two years.
The biggest problem with tooth transplants from one donor to a different recipient is autoimmune rejection. Antibodies in the recipient's body, provoked by the implanted tooth's soft-tissue root material or even the enamel of the crown, attack the root and cause it to be replaced with soft tissue and even bone. The result is that the socket grows over and the crown becomes detached from the jaw and falls off. This happens in nearly all cases of teeth transplanted from a donor who is different from the recipient.
Wisdom tooth transplants from the donor to herself, however, are usually effective. One dental surgeon is quoted in this magazine article as saying he has done over 300 such transplants with a 97% success rate.
A wisdom tooth is transplanted within the donor's own mouth in order to replace another molar that had to be extracted. Since most adults in the west have their wisdom teeth routinely extracted and discarded fairly early, the wisdom tooth is most often available for transplantation when a child of 11 to 14 years of age loses a molar to tooth decay. Rejection is not an issue because the tooth already belongs to the donor/recipient's own body. Quite often, the wisdom tooth that is used is either impacted or does not have room to grow in properly, requiring early removal anyway.
The major drawback to wisdom tooth transplantation is that, although the bone of the root can be firmly affixed to the jaw, the tooth's nerve cannot be reconnected. This makes the tooth unable to feel pain, so the tooth must be monitored in other ways for hidden cavities.