Wisdom teeth are a common initiation into adulthood, but what are they really for?
It’s a common question: Why do we have wisdom teeth, and what do they do?
It’s been a common inquiry for as long as modern-day dentists can remember, but there’s a good chance they don’t enjoy giving the answer.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the set of teeth at the very back of a person’s mouth, often referred to as the third set of molars.
Most adults have four wisdom teeth, with one sitting in each of the four quadrants of the mouth.
What are they for?
From what we know, wisdom teeth don’t serve any specific purpose …anymore. According to anthropologists, humans were equipped with wisdom teeth hundreds of years ago, when our ancestors were dealing with a tough diet.
This diet included things like leaves, tough meats, and roots. In order to properly chew and digest these types of foods, a collection of flat, robust teeth in the back of the mouth (the third set of molars) helped with the tougher chewing power that was required.
These days, however, the need for these more robust teeth has become non-existent. Our diet has evolved to include a larger range of softer foods, along with the assistance of cutlery to make food easier to manage.
In evolutionary biologists’ terms, wisdom teeth have become ‘vestigial organs’. (In other words, organs that we don’t need anymore).
Why do they keep coming?
Even though our wisdom teeth no longer serve a purpose, they continue to sprout up in the mouths of people at varying ages.
Wisdom teeth begin to form around the age of ten, but tend not to break through the gums until an individual is between 17 and 25 years old.
While some people get all four wisdom teeth, others might get only a few, or none at all. In fact, some individuals may never have to deal with wisdom teeth at all!
Since we have no need for them anymore, dentists encourage people to have their wisdom teeth removed at an early age. However, this is not because wisdom teeth cannot help us with digestion; rather, it is because wisdom teeth can wreak so much havoc in our mouths.
Wisdom teeth are known to put a strain on the mouth, often causing overcrowding, pain, and infections. They are prone to cavities and infection because of the position in the jaws making it difficult for access and good hygiene. While they might have been useful in the past, anyone who is experiencing problems with their wisdom teeth might consider having them removed.
Contact OMSNashville to schedule a consultation and learn more.
The information and content on our website should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment or advice from your doctor.