Interacting with wisdom teeth to some degree or another has become somewhat of a rite of passage for dental patients entering early adulthood. Blooming in each of the smile’s furthest corners, these molars once served an important purpose for our ancestors. In contrast to today, the majority of dental patients have outgrown the ability to develop these teeth in proper formation, leading to a phenomenon where millions of young adults undergo a seamless procedure to remove them each and every year.
As of today, these once relevant molars are safely and frequently removed without much thought from both the professional and patient as to, well, why?
To gain even more wisdom (no pun intended) regarding these teeth, let’s unpack some information regarding these molars; bolstering the knowledge you hold regarding your oral anatomy and understanding the reason they develop in the first place.
The Name Says It All
An interesting tidbit is the origin of their name. Wisdom teeth are termed as such due to their unique tendency to emerge in mature smiles. Patients usually sprout these molars no earlier than age seventeen, meaning they emerge at a much later age than the rest of your teeth. Signifying the patient’s maturity and indicating they are much wiser than in the years before.
A Defect? Or a Once Useful Tool?
When wisdom teeth finally emerge, they complete the full set of thirty-two teeth which constitute the standard adult smile. These overdue molars are regarded as a mere annoyance during the modern era, in contrast to our ancestors, where these teeth once served a crucial purpose to the function of the smile.
Completely unique in nature, wisdom teeth are both the widest and most durable of all the teeth within your smile’s arsenal. Designed to assist our ancestors in grinding and chewing raw food textures which were unique to their primitive diets, in a time before meat was typically cooked through and tenderized. Undeniably useful in accommodating the diets of old, most of our jaws in today’s age have far outgrown the necessity of wisdom teeth thanks to softer and easier textures of the modern diet as well as advancements in oral care and corrective tooth development.
Removed… When Deemed Necessary
Speaking of not needing these late additions- most wisdom teeth are eventually removed through professional intervention. Anywhere between 80 to 90 percent of people who sprout these teeth will not have proper jaw space to properly house them, and will eventually require their removal.
Appearing in the four corners of the jaw, some patients will have circumstances where only the top or lower wisdom teeth demand removal, while the others emerge in a desirable alignment alongside the existing teeth.
However, if left unchecked, the vast majority of wisdom teeth will become problematic if not professionally removed. Since most jaws fail to provide adequate space, these teeth frequently impact the neighboring teeth at an angle as they emerge over time. This can be extremely painful, cause infections and cysts, and even damage the integrity of the surrounding jawbone.
Keeping a wisdom tooth, against the advice of a dental professional, will surely result in an unmanageable and problematic smile. As impacted wisdom teeth may break part way through your gums and leave loose skin flaps as a result. This situation creates a near inaccessible environment for bacteria to fester and significantly contribute to the development of tooth decay and even periodontal (gum) disease.
The Luckier Few
On the other hand, some of us seem to boast more progressive genetics, as almost one third of modern humans are now no longer born with wisdom teeth at all. Meaning even at the ripe age of seventeen, these lucky individuals will spare the initial discomfort of new teeth breaking through the far reaches of their gum line.
And perhaps even more impressive, is the few of us with jaws spacious enough to house wisdom teeth when they do arrive. It’s estimated that approximately ten percent of those who develop these molars lie claim to this bragging right!
Understanding wisdom teeth not only helps our younger readers anticipate their potential future smile, but it grants all of us further knowledge regarding the amazing design and function of human anatomy.
If you seek more wisdom regarding this topic, or believe you may be struggling with impacted and untreated wisdom teeth yourself, we urge you to contact our trusted dental professionals! A hands-on approach and vigilant professional eye is the only method to comprehend your smile’s specific needs.