The prophylactic removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth is defined as the (surgical) removal of wisdom teeth in the absence of local disease. Impacted wisdom teeth have been associated with pathological changes, such as inflammation of the gums around the tooth, root resorption, gums- and alveolar bone disease, damage of the adjacent teeth, the development of cysts and tumours. Several other reasons to justify prophylactic removal have also been given. Wisdom teeth do not always fulfil a functional role in the mouth. When surgical removal is carried out in older patients the risk of more postoperative complications, pain and discomfort increases. Nevertheless, in most developed countries the prophylactic removal of trouble-free wisdom teeth, either impacted or fully erupted, has long been considered as 'appropriate care'. Prudent decision-making, with adherence to specified indicators for removal, may reduce the number of surgical procedures by 60% or more. It has been suggested that watchful monitoring of asymptomatic wisdom teeth may be an appropriate strategy.