Wisdom teeth don’t seem very wise! They sometimes don’t fit quite right and have to be removed. So what are they for?
What are they?
These four teeth, called third molars, are thought to be vestigial. This means that a long time ago, they served a purpose, like the appendix. One thought that the extra teeth were needed to grind fibrous foods or crush thick grains. Another is that human jaws used to be a bit longer. A third is that these were needed replacement teeth.
As time passed and diet changed the need for these teeth lapsed.
Why are they removed?
They usually come in by the time a person is an adult, between 17 and 21 years of age. These teeth a removed for a number of reasons.
It’s usually extracted in the following cases:
- The tooth is infected.
- The tooth is impacted (only half erupted). Those almost always get infected in the future. They can also lead to cavities, alignment issues or senius infections.
- The tooth is affecting neighboring teeth (ex. the crown of the wisdom tooth touches the root of the one next to it causing pain and fusing).
- As a preventative measure.
The idea that the third molars cause “over-crowding” in the mouth is a popular myth – but it is just a myth.