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Why Do We Grow and Remove Wisdom Teeth

August 15, 2021

For most adults, it is common to develop wisdom teeth sometime between the ages of 17-21 and have a subsequent surgery soon afterward. As a society, we’ve primarily grown to take the growth and removal of our third set of molars for granted, but have you ever stopped to wonder why we develop a set of teeth that need removing later? If you think it’s because those teeth are useless, you aren’t wrong – they don’t serve any vital purpose anymore. More importantly, though, wisdom teeth can lead to dental problems if they aren’t removed.  

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth in the First Place?  

To understand why wisdom teeth get removed, it’s essential to know why we grow them at all. Anthropologists speculate that, like the appendix, wisdom teeth are a byproduct of evolutionary development that no longer serve a useful purpose within the human body. For example, these extra molars were essential for breaking down a raw, strict diet of leaves, roots, nuts, and meat. However, humans use cooking techniques and utensils to soften food before consumption, so those massive molars aren’t required to survive.   

Wisdom teeth are gradually going away, and some people never develop them at all anymore. However, studies show that about 53% of people still have at least one wisdom tooth come in, and those teeth are removed via surgery in most cases.   

Why Should Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?  

The size of the human jaw is part of the evolutionary process leading to the slow disappearance of wisdom teeth. Our ancestors had much more expansive, stronger jaws that aided in crushing and chewing tougher foods. Now, our jaws are much narrower, which leads to problems when wisdom teeth start coming in.  

Some of these problems can include:  

  • Crowded teeth  
  • Crooked teeth (your orthodontist will likely suggest wisdom tooth removal before getting braces!)  
  • Sideways wisdom teeth  
  • Increased risk of tooth decay  
  • Pain in gums and jaw  
  • In extreme cases, cysts and tumors can form under the gums  

Should I Get My Wisdom Teeth Removed?  

Just because wisdom tooth extraction is standard, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs or undergoes surgery. In many cases, the recommendation is to get them removed before the age of 20 simply because surgery and recovery are more complex in older patients if the teeth are problematic later on. On the other hand, if you are older than 30 and you’ve never had any complications from your wisdom teeth, you likely never will!   

Some people with no complications have them removed early “just in case,” so they never have to deal with monitoring them. But, after that, it truly is up to the patient. Usually, your dentist should recommend that you have the teeth removed if they’re causing you any pain or infection, crowding your teeth, or if they’re impacted and can’t break through your gums.  

Not Sure If You Need Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?  

Talk to our team! We are here to help you get the answers you need regarding your wisdom teeth or if you have general dentistry questions. Our office is family-friendly and located right here in Murfreesboro, TN! We are happy to help you get the dental care you need whenever you need it.