Because they are the last teeth to erupt and erupt quite late (coming in between 17 and 25 years of age), the four teeth in the rear of your mouth were coined wisdom teeth. Apparently we are much wiser when we are 17 to 25 years old. For many people, however, wisdom teeth can cause a host of problems. The reason being, we simply don’t need them anymore. Today your Des Moines Dentist, Dr. Stephen Burds explains why you no longer need your wisdom teeth.
Back in the day, when humans were ancient, people had larger mouths to accommodate their diet which consisted of large pieces of raw meat, raw vegetables, roots, nuts, and seeds. They also had an extra row of teeth to help chew these foods into small enough pieces to swallow and digest. Research has shown, however, that the human face and jaw have become continuously smaller over the past 20,000 years, largely because our diet has changed. With the inventions of cooking utensils, pottery, and ovens, food is cut into smaller pieces, cooked, and easier to chew. We no longer need an extra row of teeth, nor can our mouths accommodate them.
Because our jaws are smaller and there is no room to accommodate our wisdom teeth, they present problems when they begin to erupt because there isn’t sufficient room. The following are problems that can develop:
- The wisdom teeth may grow in sideways
- The wisdom teeth may become partially impacted (they cannot fully erupt)
- They may become fully impacted (trapped by the adjacent teeth preventing them from erupting at all)
A host of problems are associated with partially impacted wisdom teeth including: bacterial contamination resulting in decay, inflammation, gum disease, and infection. Today, wisdom teeth are often extracted before they begin to erupt to avoid the future problems they may cause.