Getting wisdom teeth is almost seen as a rite of passage today, but does anybody even know why we have wisdom teeth? It seems dentists make a big deal of these special teeth, only to remove them before they grow in. What is the big fuss about wisdom teeth and what purpose do they serve?
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are usually the last set of teeth to come in around 17-25, and are the third set of molars. Rarely, these teeth will grow in just fine and stay in a mouth forever. For the rest of the population with wisdom teeth, these teeth do not come in properly and need to be removed to protect the mouth from disease. Not everyone has wisdom teeth, either. It is estimated that 95% of American 18-year olds have wisdom teeth, and most of these teeth have no function in a normal mouth.
What do wisdom teeth do?
Why would we have teeth without a function? Much like the appendix, the purpose of wisdom teeth lies in our ancestors. Early humans needed the extra row of teeth to chew their diet because it was completely hard, uncooked foods. Nowadays, we do not need the extra set of teeth because our diet has changed to soft, processed foods. And some people never develop wisdom teeth for a similar reason–as our ancestors faces and jaws got smaller and smaller the teeth never came in.
Why are wisdom teeth removed?
Wisdom teeth are such a problem because they jaw is already too small to accommodate extra teeth. Sometimes these teeth grow in sideways, or are impacted and never make it to full growth. Impacted teeth are highly susceptible to infection because bacteria is trapped with the teeth and it is difficult to clean. Even if the teeth fully come in, it is hard to reach that far back in the mouth to clean them, so they are removed to prevent the buildup of plaque and cavities, which can progress into gum disease. Over time, even those who kept their wisdom teeth into their thirties usually got rid of them eventually.
How does the wisdom teeth removal process work?
While wisdom teeth are usually removed during the teenage years for ease of process and easier healing, people can get them out anytime. There are usually not complications, only ones that might arise from local anesthetics and nerve damage, but nerve damage is usually temporary and will reduce with the over-the-counter painkillers and medication designed to reduce swelling.
If you have your wisdom teeth in still and want to discuss possible removal options, call our office today. We can also assist in learning how to properly clean and monitor your teeth so removal is not necessary. Everyone’s mouth is different so advising us of your individual situation can help us make the best dental decision.