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Dentists often recommend that teenagers have their wisdom teeth extracted to avoid future problems. However, the medical need for these extractions is unclear at best. Is removing teeth without medical necessity a violation of chavala/chovel b'atzmo? What about in cases where it would definitely improve the patient's dental health, though not save his life?

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see judaism.stackexchange.com/a/10669/1592 –  user1592 Jun 7 '12 at 23:03
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Two points: 1.) Some dentists are overzealous about removing wisdom teeth, just like some doctors are overzealous about removing tonsils. However, there is often a risk of complications if not extracted (such as infection secondary to impaction) when the jaw is too small to accommodate the tooth or when x-rays show an unerupted tooth growing at a very oblique angle (some of these cases end in complications, and could be difficult to remedy if extraction is not done early). 2.) The gemara even permitted chovel b'atzmo for bloodletting, which was considered beneficial but not necessary. –  Fred Jun 7 '12 at 23:49
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CYLDDS......... –  Seth J Oct 10 '13 at 12:18
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1 Answer

The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 420:31) rules that you don't have permission to hit yourself, but you are nevertheless patur. This is actually a machlokes rishonim: Tosafos (Shevuos 27a ד"ה אביא) rules that it is permissible while Rambam (Chovel UMazik 5:1) rule sthat it is forbidden.

Since it is a safek sfeika, I would think that it should be allowed to do it. (Safek #1: Maybe the halachah is really like the view that you are allowed to hit yourself. Safek #2: Even if you aren't allowed to hit yourself, maybe you are in this case, because it is possible that there is a medical need to do it.)

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Do you have any evidence that there is a safek what the halacha is? It seems we paskin like the rambam. –  Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 0:55
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We do pasken like the Rambam, but Tosafos still disagree, which makes it a safek. –  b a Jun 8 '12 at 0:55
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Every machloket rishonim is a safek? That's a little extreme. Would you say that about chiyuvei asei? What about when it's lekula? –  Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 0:56
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There is a rishon (the Bahag) who says that counting the omer is one mitzvah for all 49 nights, and the remainder of rishonim agree that each night is a separate mitzvah. The Shulchan Aruch rules that if someone doesn't remember if he skipped a night of counting the omer, he can count the remaining nights with a brachah. The Mishnah Brurah (489:38) explains that it is because of safek sfeika. Safek #1: Maybe he did count the omer. Safek #2: Maybe halachah is like the remainder of rishonim that each night is a separate mitzvah. That is a machlokes rishonim that the MB treats as a safek. –  b a Jun 8 '12 at 1:21
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Well, if I'm not sure how I say a bracha on my tefillin if it's only a safek that rashi is right. I don't know how I can do melacha on Friday afternoon 15 minutes before astronomical sunset if maybe the Yerei'im is right, etc. Do I really need to give you these examples? You seem more than capable of noticing that there is no way every machloket is a safek. –  Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 15:01
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