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Why We Have Wisdom Teeth and Why They Need to Go

Why We Have Wisdom Teeth and Why They Need to Go

Your wisdom teeth are your third set of molars, and it’s become almost a rite of passage to have them removed during your late teen years. But why do people even have wisdom teeth just for them to be pulled? 

Those are the two questions Dr. Lovely Manlapaz Teodoro explores in this blog: Why do we have wisdom teeth and why do they need to go?

Why we have wisdom teeth…

Imagine biting into a fibrous root without first cutting into small pieces. The earliest humans didn’t have the luxury of silverware, so any food 一 meat, nuts, roots, berries, and other vegetation 一  took a toll on their teeth. Wisdom teeth were vital for the earliest human ancestors because they served as an additional set of teeth to replace other worn-down molars. 

Not only did early human ancestors need additional molars, but their jaws were broader and had more space to accommodate an extra set of molars. 

… and why they need to go

With the invention of tools (including silverware), there was less wear-and-tear on the first and second set of molars. As a result, humans started to rely less and less on their third set of molars. Through ever-evolving genetics and evolution, human jaws evolved to meet these needs. One change that has happened over the course of thousands of years is that human jaws aren’t as wide or big as they used to be. A smaller jaw makes it harder for wisdom teeth to erupt, and that’s exactly why wisdom teeth can be so problematic. Without ample room to emerge, wisdom teeth can:

In other words, evolutionary changes simply don’t leave enough room for your wisdom teeth to safely emerge.

Do you need your wisdom teeth extracted?

You don’t need to wait until your wisdom teeth cause major problems before they are removed. 

Before your teeth are removed, we consider the angles at which they are growing and if they’ve already emerged (or not). 

Is the tooth growing straight?

You may benefit from wisdom teeth removal if they’re growing in at odd angles. Due to lack of space, it’s not uncommon for wisdom teeth to erupt at less-than-ideal angles. Some may even grow parallel to your gum line. Wisdom teeth that grow crookedly can cause your other molars to shift. 

Is the tooth partially impacted?

The angle at which your tooth is growing isn’t the only cause for concern. Wisdom teeth cause problems even if they don’t fully erupt. A tooth that partially emerges from your gums is called partially impacted. A tooth that is partly exposed above your gum line increases your risk of developing gum disease, decay, and pericoronitis. 

Is your tooth impacted?

Impacted wisdom teeth don’t emerge at all, and about 24% of people experience impacted wisdom teeth. Just like partially impacted teeth, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to the development of infections. They also increase your risk of developing a cyst.

Not sure if you need your wisdom teeth extracted? While it’s true that some people aren’t born with wisdom teeth 一 anywhere from 5 to 37% of people are missing at least one wisdom tooth 一 many people benefit from extractions. Dr. Teodoro uses dental X-rays to confirm the location and position of your wisdom teeth. Removing wisdom teeth before they cause infections or decay can help you avoid unwanted complications, including swelling, pain, and infections.

To learn more about wisdom teeth removal, call our Hercules, California, office at 510-254-3328 to schedule an appointment. You can also utilize our online booking system to request appointments.

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