Why do we have Wisdom Teeth?

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Wisdom teeth are your third and final set of teeth to erupt into your mouth. They tend to appear around the early twenties or late teens. Wisdom teeth can cause a variety of problems as patients often don't have sufficient room for them in their mouths. Wisdom teeth which do not erupt properly or only partially erupt, can have a huge effect on oral hygiene and issues with gaps or crowding and will often need to be extracted.

It is believed by many anthropologists that our wisdom teeth were a mechanism designed to cope with our distant ancestor's diet. This contained much more coarse and abrasive foods such as nuts, roots and leaves which needed greater effort to chew and caused the teeth to wear excessively. In modern times, our diets consist of a lot more processed foods and much less chewing power is required. This renders the need for wisdom teeth obsolete, but they are still present. Other theories state that the reason wisdom teeth cause so many problems is that the human jaw has decreased in size throughout history. This leads to 'impacting', where the wisdom teeth are blocked by the surrounding teeth.  'Impacted' wisdom teeth can lead to a range of problems, encouraging bacteria growth and potentially causing infections. In the more severe cases, tumours or cysts may form in the tissues near to the impacted wisdom tooth, causing a range of problems with the jaw.

Although some patients develop wisdom teeth which don't cause any problems and work well, the majority of patients experience some difficulties and may require extractions. In cases such as this, it is strongly advised that any removals are done as early in life as possible. This is due to the fact that people undergoing oral surgery over the age of 35 are increasingly vulnerable to complications and extended recovery periods.

Read more in the Dental Treatment Information Guide »