why do we get our wisdom teeth pulled
SUMMARY: Why, from a dental standpoint, do we get rid of wisdom teeth? And more confounding, why do we have them in the first place if they aren t functional? Posted: June 29, 2015
Most of us are familiar with wisdom teeth removal. According to Everyday Health, 95 percent of 18-year-old adults in the U. S. have extra molars. These teeth, also known as the third molars, come in long after the rest of your permanent teeth develop and can cause pain and misalign your jaw. But why, from a dental standpoint, do we get rid of them? More confounding, why do we have them in the first place if they aren t functional? Let s explore the molars: Hunter-gatherer to modern man Though archeologists and anthropologists aren t 100 percent certain why we have wisdom teeth, many speculate that they did once serve an evolutionary function. Our ancient ancestors were most commonly hunter-gatherers, meaning they roamed the land in search of food. Much of the edible material they found was difficult to chew. From tough roots to chewy meat, everything they ate was rough. As such, molars wore down quickly, and having a third row meant you were able to process your meal even when other molars couldn t cut it. However, over time, humankind shifted to a more agrarian lifestyle, finding most of their food through farming. This shifted the average person s diet toward softer foods that didn t require these additional molars, and thus we stopped needing our wisdom teeth. Eating softer foods also allowed our jaws to shrink since we didn t need strong muscles and bones just to eat anymore. As such, wisdom teeth stopped fitting in our newly tiny mouths. Fast forward to modern times, when our small mouths still grow teeth they neither need nor have room for. For most people, wisdom teeth come in crooked and can be painful. Where the name comes from Wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth we get, coming in later than other molars. In fact, most people don t see evidence of their wisdom teeth until they re between the ages of 17 and 25. Mentally speaking, human brains don t fully develop until our mid to late 20s - in some cases, not even until the 30s!
Because the third molars begin to surface during adulthood, we associate them with wisdom and becoming mentally developed, hence the moniker. Why we remove them As stated, wisdom teeth tend to grow crooked in the back of the mouth. For some, overcrowding can cause these teeth to be impacted, meaning they grow sideways instead of vertically. In other cases, wisdom teeth only poke through part of the gums covering them. Both instances are bad for oral health. Partially erupted teeth : When your wisdom teeth poke out of the gums, but aren t totally emerged, food can slip into the gum and attract bacteria. Those particles can then contribute to the decaying of your wisdom teeth. In the worst-case scenario, trapped foods could eventually cause gum infections. Impacted : When wisdom teeth are impacted, they grow in sideways, often pushing against other teeth. This can alter the bite of your mouth or cause pain, or both. Most dentists suggest removing wisdom teeth before they take root. They re easier to remove that way and cause less pain. Some adults, however, experience no ill effects of wisdom teeth. In these cases, the teeth erupt completely from the gums and grow in straight. This isn t very common, and most people will have to have surgery to remove these additional teeth. Say goodbye to wisdom teeth If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your dentist: Pain near wisdom teeth. Partially surfaced wisdom teeth. Infections near the molars. Tumors. Cysts. Tooth decay. If the issues are caused by incoming wisdom teeth, your dentist will likely recommend removal. If you ve had wisdom teeth for awhile with no ill effects, monitor them closely. Note any changes and share them with your dentist. Wisdom teeth may no longer be necessary from an evolutionary standpoint, but they can still impact your oral health. * These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only.
Always consult your health care professional before beginning any new therapy. Not just a year ago my wisdom was tucked tightly away in my mouth, just below the surface of my gums, bothering no one. And then, last fall, it decided to emerge in the shape of three large, impacted teeth that had to come out. As I lay under the dental surgeonБs tools over the holidays, slowly coming out of my anesthesia, I wondered to myself: where did these teeth come from? Anthropologists believe wisdom teeth, or the third set of molars, were the evolutionary answer to our ancestorБs early diet of coarse, rough food Б like leaves, roots, nuts and meats Б which required more chewing power and resulted in excessive wear of the teeth. The modern diet with its softer foods, along with marvels of modern technologies such as forks, spoons and knives, has made the need for wisdom teeth nonexistent. As a result, evolutionary biologists now classify wisdom teeth as vestigial organs, or body parts that have become functionless due to evolution. Why do wisdom teeth wait to erupt long after the tooth fairy has stopped leaving change under your pillow? Tooth development, from baby primary teeth to permanent teeth, takes place in an organized fashion, over a course of years, with the first molar erupting around the age of six and the second molar erupting around the age of 12. Wisdom teeth, which begin forming around your tenth birthday, are the last set of molars on the tooth-development timeline, so they usually donБt erupt until you are between the ages of 17 and 25. Because this is the age that people are said to become wiser, the set of third molars has been nicknamed Бwisdom teeth. Б Some people never get wisdom teeth, but for those who do, the number may be anywhere from one to four Б and, on very rare occasions, more than four, according to a study published in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association. Scientific literature has yet to be able to explain why the number of teeth per individual varies, but for those who do get these extraneous, or supernumerary, teeth, it can lead to all sorts of problems.
Because human jaws have become smaller throughout evolutionary history, when wisdom teeth form they often become impacted, or blocked, by the other teeth around them. Also, if the tooth partially erupts, food can get trapped in the gum tissue surrounding it, which can lead to bacteria growth and, possibly, a serious infection. Wisdom teeth that do not erupt but remain tucked away can also lead to oral problems, such as crowding or displacement of permanent teeth. On very rare occasions, a cyst (fluid filled sac) can form in the soft tissue surrounding the impacted wisdom tooth. These cysts can lead to bone destruction, jaw expansion, or damage to the surrounding teeth. Even more uncommonly, tumors can develop in the cysts, which can lead to the jaw spontaneously breaking if the tumor or cyst grows too much. There are patients that develop wisdom teeth that function just as well as every other tooth in the mouth, and as a result they do not need to go under the knife. But no one can predict when third molar complications will occur, and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons estimates that about 85 percent of wisdom teeth will eventually need to be removed. If you do have wisdom teeth that you are thinking of having taken out, the association strongly recommends that patients remove wisdom teeth when they are young adults, in order to Бprevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing. Б People who have oral surgery after the age of 35 have higher risks for complications, harder surgeries, and longer healing times than those who get them removed in their late teens or early 20Бs. The best time to get those suckers out is when the roots are about two-thirds formed, which is generally between the ages of 15 to 18. Though I wasБwell, a lady never tells her age, but suffice it to say that for me, a weeks long lack of locution and a diet of soup and applesauce was worth no longer having pain in my jaw and food in my teeth.
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