Why Do We Even Have Wisdom Teeth?

It’s estimated that 85 percent of wisdom teeth will have to be removed at some point in a person’s life, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. For some, this is preventative but for many others, crowding, infection and impaction plays a huge role in the reasons they require the removal of these now considered extra molars.

The average size adult mouth can comfortably hold 28 teeth said Dr. Kevin Pollock, DDS, MD, a well-respected oral surgeon at Pinnacle Oral Surgery Specialists in Rockwall, Texas.

“Once the final teeth grow in to complete the 32 teeth that make up a human’s mouth, 

“Once the final teeth grow in to complete the 32 teeth that make up a human’s mouth, things can get really tight really fast. When there just isn’t enough room, things start changing,” said Pollock.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nine out of 10 people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. A tooth becomes impacted when it can’t fully enter the mouth. An impacted wisdom tooth can lead to infection, swelling, painful and bleeding gums, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and even stiffness of the jaw. 

If the teeth are able to break through the jaw bone and gum line and emerge into the mouth, crowding can become a serious issue.

“Many times the wisdom teeth force the rest of the teeth to move as they come in,” said Pollock. “This can completely disrupt the alignment of the bite and lead to damage and excessive wear on teeth that don’t line up properly. Any change in the alignment of the jaws can also potentially lead to a TMJ disorder.”

According to the science-based website HowStuffWorks, 35 percent of the population are now born without wisdom teeth, at all. So, if the teeth don’t fit in most people’s mouths and now many of us are being born without them, what’s the point of them?

The research done by anthropologists all over the world has led them to believe that the diets of early humans required these teeth. They ate many hard, uncooked food such as nuts and roots and chewed meats that were often tough in texture. Throughout the evolution of humans, our jaws have slowly begun to shrink in size thanks to modern day cooking and a change in our diets, we don’t utilize our teeth the same way our ancestors did. Now, the average mouth is to the point where it is difficult for most to accommodate the extra molars that were so necessary for our ancestors.

Now, many dentists recommend removing wisdom teeth that could become a potential problem in the future. There has been much debate on the topic of preventative wisdom teeth removal in recent years. It’s always best to consult a well-trusted dentist when deciding something such as wisdom tooth removal.

“Every person’s mouth is shaped differently and can accommodate different amounts of different sized teeth,” said Pollock. “If you look at a group of people smiling you will see not only is the size of their smile different, so are the size and shape of each tooth and the spaces between each one. To decide what’s best for you as a patient requires an in-depth analysis by a dental professional.”