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Wisdom Teeth Often Get Removed. So Why Do We Have Them?

December 4, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — rmperio @ 8:10 am
Young woman holding extracted wisdom tooth and smiling

Much like getting a driver’s license or going to prom, getting wisdom teeth removed is a common rite of passage for many teenagers and young adults. In fact, each year 10 million wisdom teeth are extracted from 5 million people, according to research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. So, why do people have wisdom teeth in the first place? Are they just extra, useless teeth? Answering these questions requires looking back millions of years. Keep reading to learn about the history of third molars and why wisdom teeth extraction in Colorado Springs is so common.

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars that typically develop in the back of the jaw when a person is between 17 and 21 years old. They are called wisdom teeth because they arrive when a person is older and, presumably, “wiser”. While wisdom teeth once had an important role to play, in today’s modern world they are often of source of pain and other oral health issues.  

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Researchers believe that wisdom teeth helped early humans to consume their more primitive diet, which included uncooked meat, plants, roots and nuts. These tough foods required a lot of chewing, which is why a third set of molars was very beneficial.

Today, of course, people typically cook meat and other foods to soften them before eating. Humans also have mastered how to use knives, forks, and other utensils that make it easier to consume food. For these reasons, anthropologists believe humans have evolved beyond needing wisdom teeth. In fact, according to the Dental Research Journal, anywhere between 5 to 37 percent of people never even grow one or more of their third molars.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Often Removed?

For those who do grow wisdom teeth, the late-arriving molars can cause some serious oral health problems. Our ancestors had larger jaws than modern humans and could easily fit a third set of molars. Today, however, many men and women do not have enough space left in their mouths by the time wisdom teeth grow in. This can often cause wisdom teeth to become impacted, which means they erupt at a sideways angle, only partially erupt through the gums or become trapped beneath the gum line.

Impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to all of following problems:

  • Higher risk of tooth decay
  • Crowded teeth
  • Jaw pain and facial swelling
  • Bite problems
  • Cysts under the gums

Do you have a young son or daughter who is approaching the age when their wisdom teeth may erupt? Now you are equipped with a bit more knowledge about why those third molars exist – and why they may need to be removed.

About the Practice

With more 36 years of experience between them, Dr. Geoff B. Haradon and Dr. Karl P. Lackler lead the team at Rocky Mountain Periodontal Specialists in providing oral health services in Colorado Springs. The highly-rated dental professionals comfortably and expertly extract problem teeth, including wisdom teeth. To learn more about wisdom teeth removal in Colorado Springs, visit the Rocky Mountain Periodontal Specialists website or call 719-574-4867.