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Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are a bit of a mystery. Why do we have teeth that almost everyone should have taken out? Well, the function of wisdom teeth dates back to our early ancestors.

Our earliest ancestors survived on a diet of coarse, tough food (such as meat, nuts, roots, leaves and berries), which required more chewing power and caused excessive wear of the teeth. In order to be able to eat these foods necessary for survival, they needed a broader jaw and strong molars. A broader jaw was able to accommodate the wisdom teeth and allowed them to erupt into the mouth normally.

Today’s diet is much softer and is prepared differently (cut, diced, boiled, baked, etc.), which makes eating a lot easier and there is no longer a need for wisdom teeth. It is believed that our jawline has become less broad and smaller over the years because of this change in food preparation and consumption, and now all 32 teeth cannot fit properly.

Wisdom teeth begin forming around 10 years old and are the last teeth to develop, so they don’t usually erupt until between the ages of 17 and 25. Since this is the age that people are said to become wiser, the set of third molars were given the nickname, “wisdom teeth”.

As wisdom teeth form, they often become impacted and cannot fully erupt since they are blocked by other teeth around them. Or, if they erupt, they can crowd the other teeth. It is also very hard to clean these teeth, so any food that gets trapped can lead to bacteria growth and even a serious infection. Some people have wisdom teeth that develop and function just like every other tooth in the mouth. However, it is possible that complications will occur later on, especially since these teeth are so far back in the mouth that proper care is difficult. It is strongly recommended to have them extracted to prevent any future issues and to help with long-term health.

Surgeons suggest that patients have their wisdom teeth removed as a young adult since the roots are only about two-thirds formed between the ages of 15 to 18. There are also higher risks for complications, more difficult surgeries, and longer healing times when people over the age of 35 have them removed.

If you are interested in scheduling wisdom teeth surgery or have any questions, give us a call at 843-762-9028. 

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