Picture it: you wake up at three in the morning with a shooting pain in the back of your jaw. It’s not a cavity- you recently had your mouth checked- your fillings are still in tact- why are you in so much pain? It’s then that you realize: your wisdom teeth are growing in.
Wisdom teeth- often referred to as third molars- are some of the final teeth that might develop in a person’s mouth. While not everyone has wisdom teeth (more on that in a second), they usually erupt from the gum-line during late adolescence or early adulthood- between the ages of 17 and 25. For those impacted (see what we did there?) by the eruption of wisdom teeth- it doesn’t seem like there’s anything smart about them. Their name however, comes from the intellectual development that has occured by the time these terrible teeth erupt- long after all other adult teeth have typically come in.
We get it, wisdom teeth bite. In fact, their presence in your jaw can cause a lot of problems for your oral health. Beyond the cysts that can form around new teeth- hollowing out jaws and damaging your nerves, wisdom tooth issues can also leave the mouth and create pain in your sinus cavity. Additionally, they can cause issues with teeth alignment, as the smaller, modern jaw struggles to fit anymore teeth in there! The damage and trauma of a late eruption can also cause to gum inflammation- which paves the way for cavities and other nasty oral health issues. While these problems may not occur in every case, the high occurrence of the leads many dentists to get to the root of the problem and pull the teeth altogether.
Sometimes, intelligent design takes a few years to catch up- and wisdom teeth are no exception. While we wouldn’t call ourselves anthropologists at Navarro Dental Group- the common theory is that wisdom teeth are present in the mouths of humans because that extra set of molars was useful in tearing up and grinding down the raw, uncooked, hard foods- roots, nuts, and bones- our ancestors used to eat. Supporting this theory is the trend that more agriculturally based societies have a lower occurrence of wisdom teeth prevalence than those that were shaped around hunter-gathering societies. Hopefully, these teeth will be all but a memory for future generations- at least we think that’s the smart thing to do!