Because many Americans get their wisdom teeth removed as teenagers or young adults, you might wonder why we even have them! While it might seem like wisdom teeth are a useless biological quirk, there’s a fascinating connection between human evolution and wisdom teeth.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the final molars to emerge. They get their moniker because they erupt during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. While some patients never develop any wisdom teeth, others have anywhere from one to four in the back of the mouth.
Third molars are notorious for causing crowding and alignment issues. Sometimes they only partially erupt or they grow in crooked, increasing the risk of decay, gum disease, infection, pain, and damage to neighboring teeth.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
These days, wisdom teeth are superfluous for many patients. In the past, however, they were essential. The diets of our early ancestors consisted of roots, leaves, and other similarly tough foods. Wisdom teeth helped early humans chew and grind plant tissue. Researchers believe that our predecessors had larger jaws that easily accommodated those powerful third molars. But as the human diet became more agriculturally-based, our jaws became smaller, leaving little room and use for these late-blooming teeth.
Do I Need to Get My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Now that you know a little bit about their evolution, you may be wondering if your wisdom teeth should be extracted. Because each patient has unique oral health needs, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The decision to extract your wisdom teeth depends on various factors, such as the size of your jaw and the alignment of your wisdom teeth.
Our team at Red Oak Family Dentistry performs wisdom teeth evaluations in McKinney, TX. We would love to help you get the answers you’re seeking. To ask us any questions or schedule a consultation, contact our office today!