We are often asked why we have wisdom teeth if they often need to be removed? The third molars affectionately called “wisdom teeth”, are the last set of teeth to grow. They were given that name based on the phrase “with age comes wisdom”, since they erupt around 17 and 21 years old. We actually don’t really need this third set of teeth anymore, which is why they cause issues and need to be removed. Why do we have them in the first place?
Back In Time
Our early ancestors needed third molars to help them chew foods such as raw meat, roots, berries, nuts and other leaves. They didn’t have tools like knives to cut their food or ovens to cook with, so their diet consisted of tough foods, and third molars helped break them down to be more easily digestible. Since they had these additional teeth, their jaws were broader as well, and when third molars erupted, they had plenty of room.
Why Do They Often Get Removed?
Today, our diets are vastly different from our ancestors. Now that our food is softer and easier to chew, our jaws have become smaller, and the third molars no longer have the room they need to grow.
Our jaws are not big enough to fit 32 teeth, causing the root of the third molars to often grow in at the wrong angles and alter the shape of surrounding teeth. This in turn causes the wisdom teeth to become impacted or blocked.
While not all wisdom teeth erupt, those that do are challenging to care for, as they are far back in the mouth. Dentists recommend the removal of wisdom teeth as soon as they begin to cause trouble so as to avoid the misalignment of functional teeth as well as other issues related to oral hygiene like gum infections.
Someday, humans may be born with no wisdom teeth at all. Until then, however, it’s important to monitor the growth of these teeth to stay in front of any issues they may cause.
Please feel free to contact our Canton office for any questions or concerns you may have regarding your dental health.