Why We Get Wisdom Teeth
Many people wonder why we grow teeth that cause so many problems, and the answer is that we live a very different life from our ancestors. Primitive anthropoids, like many modern apes, ate low quality foods. In order to get all the nutrition they needed from these foods, they spent a lot more time eating and chewing. Some estimates say they spent as much as 50% of their waking hours chewing.
All that chewing stimulated the jaw to grow, and it grew much larger than the jaws of modern people. But with the advent of cooking about two million years ago, and the much more recent trend in processed foods, we have a lot softer diet than our ancestors. (The closest thing our ancestors would have to a Twinkie is a grub—mmm, cream filled!) With a softer diet, our jaws develop less, so wisdom teeth lead to crowding.
With their harder diet, they also had teeth wear out faster, so having extra teeth come in during the early 20s was crucial to helping them remain capable of eating until the ripe old age of 35. And they needed those teeth. Like many animals, primitive anthropoids would normally die soon after their teeth wore out. For us, wisdom teeth are a solution without a problem: we can maintain our teeth for our entire lives, and if they do experience wear or are lost, we have solutions like dental crowns or dental implants to maintain chewing function.
Problems Linked to Wisdom Teeth
While they serve no useful purpose, we do know that they can cause serious problems. Wisdom teeth can become impacted, which means that they run up against a neighboring tooth. When this occurs, it can damage the other tooth, sometimes irreparably. And they may fail to emerge properly.
Partially emerged wisdom teeth can trap food, which can then rot, causing very bad breath, and potentially leading to serious infection. Even when they fully emerge, they can be hard to clean. These teeth are more prone to cavities, are more likely to be affected by gum disease, which can lead to their loss as well as the loss of your second molars, too.
And because there’s no room for them, the emergence of wisdom teeth can lead to serious crowding and crookedness in your other teeth. Correcting this may require orthodontics, and may require the removal anyway.
Should You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Not everyone needs to have them removed. If your wisdom teeth haven’t emerged, we will carefully evaluate your teeth as well as your jaw development to determine whether wisdom teeth will cause problems. If we do think it’s likely your teeth will cause problems, it’s best to remove them sooner rather than later. Removing your wisdom teeth sooner will make for an easier procedure. That’s because your these teeth won’t have developed roots yet. If we’re not certain or if you want to wait and see, we can certainly watch as they develop. If you are making your regular dental visits twice a year, we should still be able to prevent damage to your other teeth, but the procedure will become increasingly difficult.