Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Closeup of x-ray image growing wisdom teeth in pain

From the teenage years to the early twenties, our teeth undergo major changes in orientation and structure thanks to the growth of our wisdom teeth. Though some may not need to have their wisdom teeth removed or may not have any at all, the majority of teenagers and young adults suffer through the sometimes painful eruption of these seemingly useless teeth.

If they serve no purpose, as many believe, why do we have them in the first place?

Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?

The last time your teeth did anything of note was probably when you tucked a baby tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy. Now, all of a sudden, your teeth have decided to have a late growth spurt. Your wisdom teeth are essentially the last leg of your oral development. While it may seem more reasonable for your wisdom teeth to erupt while you’re still young, just to get it out of the way, they actually haven’t even begun developing until after age 10. When they’re finally ready to erupt, the positioning of your other teeth is typically set in stone, making it difficult for your wisdom teeth to fit. Because these late-blooming teeth erupt when you’re older and supposedly worldlier, they’ve been dubbed “wisdom teeth.”

What Purpose Does Wisdom Teeth Serve?

Oral surgeons and patients can typically agree that wisdom teeth are usually nothing but trouble. Though some individuals may have plenty of room to accommodate the growth of wisdom teeth or may not develop them at all, those who do have them know they often are accompanied by soreness, infection or impaction, potentially resulting in major oral health issues in the future. For those who have wisdom teeth, extraction may be the most logical next step to safeguard and maintain good oral health. But, if wisdom teeth will just be removed, why do we have them in the first place?

Many researchers have concluded wisdom teeth are a product of evolution. Anthropologists and biologists believe the wisdom teeth were used by our ancestors to grind coarse, rough food such as leaves, nuts and gamey meat. Because humans have grown accustomed to softer foods and the use of tableware, the human jaw has shrunk over time, rendering wisdom teeth nearly useless and officially classifying them as vestigial organs.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in Louisville, KY

The discomfort caused by the eruption of your wisdom teeth doesn’t have to be permanent. An extraction can put an end to the pain and tightness in your jaw so you can get back to your daily life without the distraction. Louisville residents can trust their smiles to the expert surgeons at Greater Louisville Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates. Contact us online or call 502-459-8012 to schedule an appointment today!



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