Wisdom teeth used to be called “teeth of wisdom,” and they got their name because they usually emerge from the gums when a person is an adult. Therefore, they show up when a person is older and supposedly wiser than they were in childhood. But why exactly do we have wisdom teeth, and why do so many people end up having them removed? Your dentist in Harris County is here to provide the answers.
Why We Have Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are classified as vestigial organs — they’re body parts that don’t have a useful function. They’re extra. So why do we have them? One theory relates to the idea of evolution. It states that during humans’ early existence, our ancestors ate a diet that involved a lot of coarse foods, like roots, nuts, meats, and leaves. This made the teeth wear down faster and led to the need for a third set of molars.
As human society advanced and diets began to feature softer foods, wisdom teeth became obsolete. Furthermore, items like forks, spoons, and knives made the job of our ancestors’ mouths easier. It became sufficient to have just two molars in each quarter of the mouth.
Today, not everyone gets wisdom teeth. Some people may only grow one or two. In rare cases, someone has more than four wisdom teeth. Scientists can’t explain why the number of wisdom teeth varies from person to person.
Why We Extract Wisdom Teeth
Another aspect of the theory behind wisdom teeth is that humans have become slightly smaller over time. Therefore, there isn’t always enough room in the mouth to accommodate a third set of molars. The wisdom teeth can cause crowding in the mouth. Also, sometimes they grow in at an awkward angle, which can shove other teeth around and lead to misalignment.
Another common problem that wisdom teeth cause is called impaction. This occurs when these third molars only partially erupt. They can get trapped in the soft tissue or in the jawbone. This causes the area to become more vulnerable to bacterial infections, making tooth decay and gum disease more likely.
Should You Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth don’t always cause problems. In some people, they can work as another functional set of molars. However, your dentist in Harris County might suggest that you have them removed regardless of whether they are causing problems. They may lead to issues later on.
Generally, it’s best to get your wisdom teeth removed when you’re between the ages of 17 and 24. Your jaw may harden as you get older, making the extraction surgery more complicated and painful.
Scientists say that we can thank evolution for our wisdom teeth. Whatever the reason behind the third set of molars, we can be glad that modern dentistry is here to take care of them — or remove them altogether.
About the Author
Dr. Alan Arrington is your dental expert in Harris County. He and his team have experience in dealing with wisdom teeth, so if you have questions or concerns about your third molars, contact the office at 706-628-0011.