Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are also known as the third molars in our mouths that erupt sometime in the late teenage years or early adult years. For some people, wisdom teeth may not erupt until the mid-twenties!

Today, five million people in the United States have their wisdom teeth removed every year [1]. With so many people having their third molars removed, it’s natural to wonder why we have wisdom teeth and why they’re no longer necessary to us as a species.

Ancient Roots

Our ancestors’ diets were much different than what ours are today. They ate food that was often much tougher and so needed to have big, strong teeth and jaws to properly chew this food. Their diet consisted of a lot of raw food that would have needed to be chewed a lot.

Today, our diet is much softer and we don’t have as much need for these big third molars as they aren’t typically used for chewing anymore [2]. As a result, our bodies have evolved and so today, our jaws are much smaller than they were in our ancestors who needed all thirty-two teeth to survive.

Modern Wisdom Teeth

Although our bodies have changed over time, not everyone will need to have their wisdom teeth removed today. There are people who have enough room in their jaws for these teeth to come in properly, although they may have trouble cleaning them [3].

While many people do end up having their wisdom teeth removed (anywhere from 60-80
percent of people), not everyone will, so it’s vital to get your dentist’s input. Some people don’t have a choice; their wisdom teeth will come in crooked or won’t have enough room to erupt comfortably in the jaw and so they’ll need to be removed.

Some people today are even born without wisdom teeth or may only have two out of the
standard four wisdom teeth, showing that evolution is slowly phasing wisdom teeth out of our bodies.

Wisdom Tooth Removal

Wisdom teeth are more likely to be impacted in people today. Impacted wisdom teeth will come in crooked, not have enough room to erupt, or may only partially erupt through the gumline.

When wisdom teeth become trapped in the jaw, they can cause crowding of neighboring teeth, pain, gum infection, swelling, and overgrowth of bacteria [4]. These are all signs that you’ll need your wisdom teeth removed.

Wisdom tooth removal is a very common surgery that millions of Americans have done every year. If your wisdom teeth need to be removed, getting the procedure done sooner rather than later can help prevent pain and infection from occurring.

Do You Have Wisdom Teeth?

If you have wisdom teeth, getting a professional evaluation from your dentist can help you determine whether or not they’ll need to be removed. While wisdom teeth are no longer vital to our survival, most people still have to deal with these teeth as they come in, so schedule a visit with your dentist to check on your third molars!

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1963310/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/415290
3. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/qa-is-it-always-best-to-have-your-wisdom-teeth-removed/
4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/qa-is-it-always-best-to-have-your-wisdom-teeth-removed/