Evolution is fascinating and sometimes leaves scientists with more questions than answers. The human body is full of superfluous parts that may have at one time served an important purpose, but now are just in the way. Wisdom teeth are firmly on that list.
If you want to learn more about wisdom teeth and why we have them, read on.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the third set of molars found at the back of your mouth. Unlike other teeth, wisdom teeth typically emerge later in life, usually in your late teens or early twenties.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
Scientists who study ancient people—anthropologists–believe wisdom teeth evolved due to our ancestor’s early diet of tougher, coarser food like leaves, roots, nuts, and meats. Each of these food sources required grinding power that couldn’t be achieved without a third set of molars.
Your teeth all serve specific functions based on their shape and they receive different names. Canines and incisors are flat and sharp, almost like knives or chisels. They are used for cutting and tearing your food.
Molars, on the other hand, are large and flat. They’re made specifically for grinding down food into smaller pieces so it can be swallowed.
The continued existence of wisdom teeth is a subject debated by scientists and researchers. Unlike our ancestors who needed these extra molars, modern humans have evolved to cook and prepare food differently.
Wisdom Tooth Complications
As a result of evolution, our jaws have become smaller, leaving less room for additional molars. This causes problems for a lot of people as wisdom teeth often don’t have enough space to emerge properly, leading to various dental issues like:
- Impaction – Wisdom teeth can be impacted, meaning they don’t have enough space to fully emerge from the gum line. This can lead to pain, infection, and damage to neighboring teeth.
- Crowding – The limited space in the jaw can cause wisdom teeth to push against existing teeth, causing them to shift around each other.
- Infection – Partially erupted wisdom teeth can create pockets where bacteria can grow, leading to infections and gum inflammation.
- Pain and Discomfort – Wisdom teeth can cause significant pain and discomfort as they try to push through the gums and into a cramped space.
- Decay – Wisdom teeth are often difficult to clean properly due to their location at the back of the mouth, making them more susceptible to decay.
Wisdom teeth are a strange evolutionary holdover that often causes more harm than good. These teeth are often removed when they begin to come through to prevent these difficulties. If you’ve been experiencing any discomfort, make an appointment with your dentist. Preventive action will ensure your smile stays pain-free and healthy.
About the Practice
At Washington Dental Associates, their team of professional and caring dentists provides exceptional dental care with a patient-centered approach. With advanced dental technology, they offer a wide range of services. Their commitment to excellence ensures that their patients receive the best possible care in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Your smile and oral health are their top priorities. To schedule a wisdom tooth consultation, call (201) 453-4863 or visit the website to explore other services.