Wisdom tooth removal is a very common dental surgery, which many patients choose to undergo every year. Wisdom teeth are the final set of adult teeth to grow in and they are certainly the largest. Wisdom teeth can be fickle, sometimes, a patient may not have wisdom teeth grow in at all, whereas others will have them grow in and become impacted, causing severe pain.
These large molars can cause problems in many circumstances and some may be left wondering: Why do we have wisdom teeth at all? The answer lies in our prehistoric past.
Anthropologists agree wisdom teeth have been around for quite a long time, roughly 100 million years ago. Things can change over time and it is generally believed that wisdom teeth used to serve a very important purpose. Wisdom teeth are parts of the body that served a purpose centuries ago but have become less useful as humans evolved.
They are called vestigial organs. Some other examples of vestigial organs include the appendix, our ear muscles and body hair. These aspects of our body were once useful but over time, as humans adapted to new environments, they served less of a purpose.
What Were Wisdom Teeth Used For?
Back before humans farmed food products such as wheat, corn and grains, they ate a variety of foods to survive. Wisdom teeth were the largest, strongest molars in the human mouth, and they were used to chew tough, fibrous foods such as roots, tree bark and grasses that are thankfully no longer on the menu today.
Our ancestors needed these strong teeth to survive. Eventually, as we moved to more agricultural societies, the foods we ate were easier to digest and more readily available. These extra teeth were no longer required.
A Shrinking Jawline
Due to our dietary preferences, the human jaw also evolved over time. Our distant ancestors had much larger jawbones than the population today.
This larger jawline could fit all 32 fully grown teeth comfortably. In modern times the average adult has between 28-32 teeth, depending on whether or not their wisdom teeth have been removed. Those with all 32 teeth can often experience overcrowding and infection.
This happens when your teeth push together to make room for growing wisdom teeth. When there is too much pressure on the other teeth, it can cause them to shift out of place and leads to crooked teeth.
Wisdom Teeth Are Not For Everyone
In modern times, there are a significant number of people who are actually born without wisdom teeth. Scientists believe this could be as many as 35% of the population. These people will never have to experience the woes related to impacted or infected wisdom teeth.
There are many reasons why this could be but it ultimately comes down to genetic and environmental factors. Wisdom teeth could eventually be eliminated naturally, with the ‘use it or lose it’ concept, wisdom teeth are slowly becoming a thing of the past.
However, with bioengineering, there is some emerging evidence that this process could be expedited. There was one study that looked into developing a vaccine that could one day keep wisdom teeth from growing altogether.
Wisdom Tooth Removal
In modern times, wisdom teeth are more of a hindrance to humans. We no longer have to break down tough, chewy foods and over the centuries, our jaws have narrowed and become smaller. There is no longer enough room for these massive molars of the past. Some patients choose to keep their wisdom teeth, and many are lucky enough to never have wisdom teeth grow in.
But wisdom tooth removal is more often than not, a preventative procedure, used to remove wisdom teeth early and keep them from becoming infected. Patients will have their wisdom teeth removed in order to keep their teeth from getting crowded or to prevent painful infections. Wisdom teeth are incredibly hard to clean due to their size, and the location at the very back of the mouth.
Patients choose to have them removed to prevent problems in the future. Wisdom tooth removal is also needed if the wisdom teeth become infected or impacted. Visit our post about the 7 “Signs you Need your Wisdom Teeth Removed” to learn more about whether or not you should book an extraction.
Visit LA Dental Clinic
At LA Dental Clinic, our team of specialists can help to answer any questions you may have about wisdom tooth removal. Wisdom teeth are part of our past but in modern times, they can affect our smile and even become infected and painful. Visit us for a consultation and plan your wisdom tooth extraction today.