Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

 

Why DO we have wisdom teeth? It’s a good question. Why were we given teeth that in most cases we will end up getting removed at some stage in our lives.

Ancient man and women once survived on a diet of roots, berries, leaves, raw meat and nuts. They didn’t have the luxury of being able to cut up their food and with no fire way back then, cooking food wasn’t an option. As a result, people had to chew through tough and coarse food – to do this we required a very rugged jaw that was broader than ours today and had very strong molars – this included wisdom teeth. Back then having all three molars was important – it was needed so we could eat food and survive. The larger jaw bone – which was common in ancient man easily accommodated the wisdom teeth. This wider jaw allowed the teeth to erupt into the mouth normally.

If you quickly fast forward to modern humans, today when you look at what we are eating and how we are preparing our food it’s a different story. We can cut, bake, boil, steam, dice, and chop all our food. All of the preparation we put into our food means eating today is a very simple thing to do. This is one of the reasons experts believe our jaw line has become less broad over time, and has become smaller, simply due to the way our food has been prepared and consumed. It is for this reason we end up having to get our wisdom teeth removed.

 

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The third molars – known as wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to erupt into your mouth and they typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 21. The reason Wisdom Teeth have been named wisdom teeth remains unknown, however it is thought the third molars were named wisdom teeth because they emerge in the mouth at the time a teenager is entering adulthood – and thus becomes *wiser*.

The average person generally develops/grows 4 wisdom teeth, but that isn’t always the case, for some lucky people they will not develop some or all of their wisdom teeth at all. For others, they can develop supernumerary – or extra – wisdom teeth.

The average human mouth can only comfortably hold 28 of the 32 teeth we are destined to have and as wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow there is often little, or no room left in the mouth for these teeth to go. This causes wisdom teeth to either –

  • Partially erupt into the mouth leaving only a part of the tooth exposed above the gum line
  • To become impacted under the gum tissue and bone
  • Or to fully erupt into the mouth in an undesirable spot – usually tilting forward and pushing on the tooth in front of it.

It can be quite painful when wisdom teeth start pushing through the gum, and as these teeth erupt this positioning can impact on the positioning of your existing teeth, it is for this reason Wisdom Teeth are often removed. Each person is different and it is possible that each of your wisdom teeth will erupt differently from the others, for example you could have just one impacted wisdom tooth while all of the others erupt fully.

During the visit with your dentist Parramatta, he or she may take an x-ray to decide whether your wisdom teeth will need to be removed. This x-ray will give the dentist a clear indication of the area directly around your wisdom teeth to decide the type of extraction needed for each tooth. When the dentist discovers a reason for you to have your wisdom teeth removed. He or she will assess the position of the wisdom teeth and how each root has formed. Your dentist will then be able to make decisions on how to perform the extraction of your wisdom teeth, or if they can be left in place.

Unfortunately, evolution hasn’t dumped wisdom teeth from our DNA – yet, evolution DID change the shape of our jawbones, now they are smaller we have less space to squeeze those wisdom teeth in. Today we *suffer* from impacted wisdom teeth – when a wisdom tooth only partially breaks through it can create a *hard to reach* area where bacteria can form – which can lead to serious infections of the gum and surrounding tissue. Wisdom teeth that don’t erupt are also an issue as there is the potential for tumours or cysts to form that can damage the jawbone if left untreated.

Even if your wisdom teeth are not an issue now, it’s recommended they be removed to avoid any problems or issues later in life, as we age there is more potential for complications and a longer recovery period post extraction.

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