Wisdom Teeth: What Are They For?

With so many people opting to remove their wisdom teeth, it may make us wonder why they’re even there in the first place. But, believe it or not, our wisdom teeth used to serve a purpose. Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars and their purpose dates way back to our ancestors’ diets.

Anthropologists claim wisdom teeth were the answer to diets high in leaves, roots, nuts and meats that needed more chewing power and put more wear and tear on teeth. About 100 million years ago, our jaws could hold 32 teeth, and this gave us a huge advantage when it came to eating and hunting. Since there were no dentists around, extra molars were a leg up when other teeth were lost or worn out.

However, as man evolved and food became softer, more processed, easier to chew, and there are dentists around to keep our teeth healthy, wisdom teeth have become vestigial organs- body parts that now serve no purpose because of evolution. This is similar to the appendix. The man that needed wisdom teeth walked on all fours and grabbed food with his mouth- man now uses his arms for this purpose, lessening the need for more powerful teeth in greater numbers. In addition to this, our bodies changed to make our jaws smaller and our brains larger, lessening the room for wisdom teeth in our mouths.

So, why are they called wisdom teeth? Well, the third set of molars usually erupt between the ages of 17-25, the time period in which people are said to become ‘wiser.’ Thus, the nickname wisdom teeth.

Because wisdom teeth do not serve a purpose anymore, they often can lead to medical problems by being impacted or blocked in by the teeth around them. It is usually recommended for those who do have wisdom teeth to get them removed.

At Greenspoint Dental, we’re here to help keep your teeth healthy and let you know if you need your wisdom teeth removed. If you’re wondering when’s the right time to get yours taken out, contact us today to make an appointment.