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Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

September 3, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — drlee @ 10:26 pm
A patient and her dentist viewing an X-ray image before her wisdom tooth extraction

Your smile is easily one of your most noticeable features—especially if your pearly whites are healthy, bright, and uniform! But not all of your teeth look exactly the same or serve similar functions: the sharper teeth towards the front of your mouth are meant for biting and tearing into food, while your flatter teeth near the back grind it all down. However, most people have a third set of molars, referred to as wisdom teeth; but these teeth are often extracted during early adulthood. Keep reading to learn a little more about these teeth, why we have them, and why they sometimes need to come out.

What Exactly Are Wisdom Teeth?

From infancy through early adolescence, we gradually lose our baby teeth as our permanent teeth begin to emerge—however, our wisdom teeth don’t tend to develop until sometime between the ages of 17 and 21. The rough, coarse diets of our human ancestors is likely what necessitated this third set of molars to develop; however, what we eat today is typically much easier to consume, rendering our wisdom teeth mostly unnecessary.

Anthropologists believe that eventually, wisdom teeth will likely go the way of the appendix and become completely obsolete, perhaps disappearing altogether. That said, just because you don’t see all of your wisdom teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there! Sometimes they never erupt and are only visible with the help of an X-ray. Most adults today develop their wisdom teeth: one study found that at least 53% of people aged 25 and older have at least one wisdom tooth come in, with men more likely to have them than women.

Why Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary?

Human jaws have gotten smaller over time, and researchers aren’t sure whether this change is due to the evolutionary development of the brain or radical changes in our diets. That said, in most cases, we simply don’t have room in our mouths for our wisdom teeth!

Whether they’re visible or not, wisdom teeth can cause several oral health problems. Wisdom teeth that haven’t erupted through the gums yet are known as impacted teeth and are much more susceptible to infection. Wisdom teeth can also remain partially impacted, creating more hard-to-clean areas that encourage bacterial growth.

In addition to impacted or infected wisdom teeth, some other common reasons for extraction include bite misalignment, overcrowding or damage to adjacent teeth, or continuous pain/pressure near the back of your mouth. They might also be removed before any orthodontic work to ensure they don’t cause future issues.

It’s worth noting that some lucky patients don’t need their wisdom teeth extracted; however, it’s ultimately left up to your dentist! If you think it might be time to have your wisdom teeth removed, don’t hesitate to speak with your dentist about your circumstances.

About the Author

Dr. Jeff Lee has proudly served patients and families in the Cambridge and Marietta areas for several years. Dr. Lee received his DDS from The Ohio State University and his practice is thrilled to offer a wide range of available services including wisdom tooth extractions. If you have any questions about the article or would like to arrange a visit, feel free to contact Dr. Lee through his practice’s website or by phone: (740) 432-8768.

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