Most people will have to get at least one of their wisdom teeth removed in the course of their lifetime. But if so many people don’t need them, why do we have wisdom teeth?
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Let’s start by understanding what wisdom teeth are. Wisdom teeth, referred to by dentists as third molars, appear at the back of the mouth behind the molars on both sides of the upper and lower jaws. Though when they appear is specific to each individual, wisdom teeth typically appear between the ages of 17 and 21. They are often misaligned and need to be removed.
Why Do They Need to Be Removed?
When wisdom teeth come in misaligned, they might position themselves horizontally. This poor alignment can crowd or damage the jawbone, adjacent teeth, or nerves. Wisdom teeth can also become impacted, which means they are enclosed within the soft tissue or jaw bone and therefore only partially break through your gums. This partial eruption allows for bacteria to enter the tooth and cause infection, leading to pain, swelling, and jaw stiffness. Partially erupted teeth are also more likely to become decayed and develop gum disease because they’re too difficult to reach to properly brush and floss.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
So if wisdom teeth cause so many dental issues and often need to be removed, why do we have them? Scientists believe that humans originally needed wisdom teeth for the typically abrasive diet of the past – foods like leaves, roots, nuts and meats. They may have also been useful for replacing other molars when they became worn out. Today, our diets are much softer and our molars don’t wear out in the way they once did, so there is no place for wisdom teeth to grow in and really no need for them.
If you think you’re wisdom teeth are coming in, call us today to make an appointment and discuss treatment options.