What Purpose Do Wisdom Teeth Serve?

September 19, 2018 1:26 pm
woman surrounded by question marks pondering the purpose of wisdom teeth

Back behind the two sets of molars in the normal adult mouth, there often erupts a third set of molars commonly known as “wisdom teeth,” which typically appear in a person’s late teens or early twenties. Wisdom teeth can cause a variety of painful oral health problems. Therefore, many people naturally wonder: Why do we have these extra teeth anyway?

Tough Eats

Anthropologists generally agree that our ancestors needed a third set of molars because they typically wore out their teeth by early adulthood and needed new teeth to replace the worn-out ones.

Thousands of years ago, most humans ate a diet of hard-to-chew foods like roots and raw meat. That, combined with primitive oral hygiene, routinely resulted in damaged, decayed, and missing teeth.

Eventually, thanks to advances in cooking and other tenderizing technologies, our ancestors developed a more tooth-friendly diet. As the need for extra teeth declined, a shorter jaw evolved, leaving less space for the “wise” third molars.

Fun Fact

The great philosopher Aristotle was writing about wisdom teeth over 2,000 years ago. He might have been the smartest person who ever lived, but he was no expert on teeth! In his book The History of Animals, written in 350 BC, he falsely claimed that men have more teeth than women, and that wisdom teeth always appear at exactly the age of 20. However, he did accurately observe that wisdom teeth are often responsible for “causing great pain.”

Wisdom Tooth Treatments

Wisdom teeth often need to be removed to prevent infection, misalignment, or other problems which can occur even before they become visible. Your wisdom teeth might even be impacted, meaning that they are stuck below the gum line, which can lead to decay, gum disease, and damage to other teeth.

Even if your wisdom teeth aren’t causing pain, it’s important to have them examined to determine whether or not you need your wisdom teeth removed. At Riverstone Dental Care, our patient-focused practice provides you with the highest quality of clinical care while assuring your greatest convenience and comfort.

Contact us to schedule your wisdom tooth examination today!
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