Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Have you ever wondered why we have wisdom teeth, especially when most people get them removed and don’t need them? Let’s take a look at what wisdom teeth are and why we have them!

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars in the very back of the mouth that usually come in between the ages of 17 and 25. They were given the name wisdom teeth because they come in at a later, more mature age compared to the other teeth. When they come in correctly, they can help with the chewing process. For those that have difficult wisdom teeth, they can damage surrounding teeth and wreak havoc on their oral health.

neanderthal family around the campfire eating using their wisdom teeth

Anthropologists’ Perspective

Let’s take a step back and look into the eating habits of our ancestors. Most anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth were an evolutionary response to our ancestors’ diet, which consisted of rougher foods like roots, nuts, raw meats, and leaves. These tough foods needed more chewing power which is where wisdom teeth came into play.

Why Don’t We Need Wisdom Teeth?

Our diets have drastically changed since the hunting and scavenging days of our ancestors. With the introduction of softer foods and helpful utensils, such as forks and knives, we’re not as reliant on our teeth to bear the total burden of our diets—making our need for wisdom teeth virtually nonexistent. Most evolutionary biologists put wisdom teeth into vestigial body parts category. This category indicates organs and body parts that have been deemed functionless and unnecessary due to evolution.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Often Cause Problems?

While some people’s wisdom teeth come in without a hitch, it’s not uncommon for these wise teeth to come bearing a host of complications. With evolution, human jaws have become a lot smaller. Because of this, wisdom teeth don’t usually have the room to erupt as they did in decades past. Since they don’t have the space they need, they often get impacted (stuck underneath the gums) or come in at an angle and push on existing teeth.

Are your wisdom teeth giving you the runaround? Schedule a consultation at our office and we can see if wisdom teeth removal is the right option for you!

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