What’s So Smart About Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom Teeth Removal Boston MAMost of us have a story about having our wisdom teeth taken out because just about everyone has to go through it. Question is, why? If wisdom teeth are so smart, why do they almost always need extraction?

Because we want to make it easy for our patients, not having to go somewhere else for yet another appointment, Dr. Walk and Dr. Bamel remove wisdom teeth at our Newton offices. Here’s some information about these evolutionary holdovers.

What are they?

Anthropologists classify our wisdom teeth as vestigial organs, leftovers from our earlier caveman days. They’re right in there with our tailbone, appendix, and body hair. Wisdom teeth are known as the third set of molars. Our ancestors needed them because they didn’t watch Food Network or eat sushi. They ate leaves, roots, nuts, and really tough meats. This required more chewing power and led to excessive tooth wear.

Now we eat softer foods, and have these marvels of technology known as knives and forks to make smaller bites. So, we no longer need the extra set of molars.

Why are they so late?

Wisdom teeth get their name because they erupt later, when we are supposedly more wise. The first molars erupt around age six, the second around age 12. Wisdom teeth begin forming around age 10 and don’t erupt until the ages of 17 to 25.

Un-Wise Problems

Wisdom teeth cause serious dental issues for most people. Because our jaws aren’t as long as they used to be when saber-toothed tigers were chasing us around, we don’t have room for a third set of molars anymore. So, when they try to come in they are usually impacted, or blocked, by the other teeth around them. They crowd the other teeth, which can cause problems. Plus, when they do partially erupt, food gets trapped in the gum tissue leading to bacteria growth and infection.

Get them out

Once x-rays start showing the wisdom teeth, it’s usually time to start thinking of getting them out. The best time to get them out is when their roots are only two-thirds formed, when a person is between the ages of 15 and 18.

OK, so our wisdom teeth aren’t so smart after all. We’ll keep an eye on them on your teenager’s x-rays and when it’s time to think about extracting them, we’ll talk. Call us for your next appointment, (617) 965-7673.

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