Why do we have wisdom teeth? 3 crucial facts you should know
Usually, between 17 and 25 years of age, wisdom teeth make their appearance in the far reaches of your mouth. They are officially the third molars – two appear on the top and two on the bottom, as part of a complete set of 32 adult teeth.
But why are wisdom teeth called wisdom teeth?
We hear a lot of elderly folks telling us that these molars actually make you smart. As good as it sounds, don’t fall for it, for it is a myth. They have been named “wisdom teeth” as they appear when you are slightly older, or an adult and since they form around the same time you become wiser, they are called wisdom teeth.
Not everybody develops wisdom teeth, and that’s okay. We can live without them, they are not the most important set of molars. However, there are some who develop an inconsistent number of wisdom teeth (sometimes, only one, only two, all four or more). There is still little-to-no explanation as to why the number of teeth for each person is inconsistent.
Now are you wondering, if wisdom teeth are not really important to most people, why do we have wisdom teeth at all?
According to anthropologists, wisdom teeth were provisions for our ancestors. Early humans needed an extra set of molars to chew coarse, rough food as their diet included a diet of uncooked, hard items like nuts, roots, and meat. Evolutionary biologists categorize wisdom teeth under vestigial organs, which is another way of describing organs that are now useless or not so important. These have been labelled so because of the way humans and the things we consume have evolved.
Further, scientists think that the drastic changes in the way we eat today and what we eat today have changed the shape and function of our mouths. For example: Nowadays we have softer food and modern tools such as forks, spoons and knives.
When wisdom teeth are healthy and properly aligned, they can be a valuable asset to the mouth but more often than not, they are misaligned, impacted and require extraction.
What can happen if wisdom teeth fail to appear healthy and well-aligned?
A lot of oral issues may occur – from overcrowding to nerve damage and bacteria growth to dislocation of permanent teeth and bone damage. In rare conditions, a cyst may develop in the soft tissues close to the affected molar, which can further damage surrounding teeth and the bone.
If a wisdom tooth has partially erupted (partially impacted wisdom teeth), which commonly occurs due to lack of space, the partial eruption of the wisdom tooth can cause major oral issues. For example, the area is open to contamination by bacteria that is associated with infection. Further, it could result in pain, swelling of the jaw, gum inflammation, tooth decay, and gum disease. The consequences can spread outside of the mouth too, causing other health problems.
Other impacts of misaligned wisdom teeth:
- Wisdom teeth that aren’t in the right position can allow food to get trapped causing cavities and allowing bacteria to grow.
- Misaligned growth can also cause problems while chewing and biting food.
- Occasionally, due to constant abrasion of the wisdom teeth with the inner cheek, there could be irritation caused to the inner cheek, leading to mouth ulcers.
Why the need to remove wisdom teeth?
Some people end up having wisdom teeth that serve a similar purpose to the remaining teeth and therefore may not need extraction. However, every patient is unique and wisdom teeth may need to be removed in patients when there is evidence of the above-mentioned problems :
- Damage to neighbouring teeth
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay caused due to impacted wisdom teeth or any other oral problem caused due to the wisdom tooth.
Recovery and healing after extraction may take some time depending on the degree of impact and difficulty of the extraction.
An uncomplicated extraction of a fully erupted tooth versus a tooth impacted into the jawbone is different and both would have different recovery periods. During the first 24 -30 hours, you might experience bleeding, facial swelling, severe pain, and a constant headache. But these signs can be kept under control and are taken care of by your dentist as he will prescribe you some pain-relieving medication.
(You maybe interested in know the cost of wisdom tooth extraction)
What if one wants to keep their wisdom teeth?
Of course, if wisdom teeth are causing no issues in the mouth, there is no need for removal. But it is advised to continue monitoring these as the potential for developing problems later on continues to exist. Make sure to regularly floss around your wisdom teeth and visit your dentist regularly.
Before making any decisions on extracting your wisdom teeth, check with your dentists for recommendations, your dentist will examine your mouth and take an x-ray before coming to conclusions. Wisdom tooth extraction is not as easy as the extraction of any other tooth; it is a challenge to both the doctor and to the patient. So make sure to approach professional dental clinics.