Wisdom Teeth

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Posted on Posted in Health

If you’ve ever visited the dentist because of wisdom teeth pain, you will no doubt be asking yourself why it is we have them. Why, if in most cases you need to get them removed, do they grow and cause a significant amount of pain? Many people will be all too familiar with wisdom teeth laying dormant for years, only to emerge and create nothing but pain, discomfort, and inflammation. They serve no purpose, so why are they there?

There is a prevailing theory amongst anthropologists and the dentist workforce that wisdom teeth only exist because of our ancestors’ early diet. Before we began to consume softer foods and started to use knives and forks, we had to rely on our teeth to grind, crunch, and break foliage, berries, nuts, and other natural ingredients.

We now live in a more convenient age, and wisdom teeth are now redundant. In fact, you can almost call wisdom teeth a vestigial organ – something you no longer need in your body because of modern conveniences and technological advancements.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Take So Long to Appear?

Between age 17 and 25, most people will find themselves calling their dentist for wisdom tooth extraction. This time of your life tends to be the most common for wisdom teeth to erupt through the surface – even if they’ve been growing under your gum line for some time. The reason for them appearing so late is that, like most teeth, they grow on a timeline.

When you’re five or six years old, you get your first molar – a momentous occasion. Then, when you’re 11 or 12, you get your second molar, known as a “12-year-old molar”. During this timeline, your wisdom teeth are growing, but they are starting to grow slowly under your gum line when you’re about ten years old. Once your other molars are fully established, and you have a full set of adult teeth, your wisdom teeth then decide to make an appearance. Because it’s around the same time as you’re thought to reach some form of maturity and wisdom, they were aptly named “wisdom” teeth.

Does Everyone Get Wisdom Teeth?

If you’re fortunate enough, you will never get wisdom teeth, because not everyone does. However, for the majority of people, between one and four teeth make an appearance. In fact, there are even studies in the Canadian Dental Association Journal which show there are cases of even more than four as well – as documented by many dentists.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Cause Trouble?

If you have no trouble with your wisdom teeth, then there is no reason to remove them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for a substantial number of people. Evolution has meant our jaws are now far smaller than they used to be, which means there is less room in our mouth for large molars such as wisdom teeth.

As a result, when they do grow through, some people experience blockages, impaction where the tooth doesn’t grow in straight, and even infection. Sometimes, the teeth will pop through the gum ever so slightly but are stuck and can’t go any further. When this happens, you are at risk of food becoming trapped, growing bacteria, then causing an infection. Therefore, the need for extraction is more common than not.

If you are experiencing pain and discomfort because of your wisdom teeth, see a dentist sooner rather than later. You may find that extraction is the best course of action to relieve any irritation.