What are Wisdom Teeth?Barotz Dental |
The last teeth to develop and erupt into the jaws are called the third molars. Third molars usually erupt in the late teen years, which coincides with passage into adulthood and is referred to by some as the age of wisdom; hence "wisdom teeth". Unfortunately, the wisdom teeth are now usually trying to erupt into a jaw that is too small. You probably know someone who has gotten their wisdom teeth removed. In fact, it is almost a rite of passage in the United States. Most people need their wisdom teeth removed to preserve their smile, and save themselves from a lot of pain later down the road.
Why are they called Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth used to serve a useful purpose, but are now considered vestigial organs. A vestige is a degenerative or imperfectly formed organ or structure having little or no utility, but in the earlier stage of development of a species performed a useful function. The reasons that wisdom teeth are now "outdated" are many. Until quite recently, our diet included mostly very coarse food, as well as impurities such as dirt and sand. This coarseness would abrade teeth so significantly that they would take up less space in the jaw. Permanent teeth were also frequently lost at an early age, which would create more space in the jaw. Because the diet was so coarse and hard to chew, the jaw itself would develop into a larger bone because of this constant workout. All of these factors would create more space for the wisdom teeth when they came in.
The heavily processed diet of today does not produce the tooth abrasion or jaw development that we used to see. Modern dentistry has pretty much eliminated significant loss of permanent teeth at an early age. This leaves us with too many teeth and not enough jaw. The wisdom teeth still develop as they always have, but they have no where to go. When this happens, the teeth are considered "impacted," meaning that they are not in normal position and function.