Whenever I see that a patient’s wisdom teeth are causing problems in their mouth, I will almost always recommend removing them. But why do we have them if we’re just going to take them out? What cruel trick is evolution playing here!?
Wisdom teeth are named as such because they come in when a person is gaining more wisdom in their lives – ie: in young adulthood or late teenage years. Some parents may disagree that this is really when wisdom starts in their kids! But have you ever wondered why we have them at all?
Let’s get to the ROOT of the problem!
Way, way back in the day when our ancestors had a vastly different diet, they were eating roots, raw meat, tough grains and plants. These are all foods that may have required a LOT of grinding to
chew up! Also, as you are probably aware – there were no caveman dentists (even though our methods may seem at times barbaric! Ha! See what I did there!?) So teeth would get used up or get cavities
or fall out, and there was nothing to replace those missing teeth! So, wisdom teeth were needed as replacement teeth as those other molars would fall out.
In addition, ancient jaws were much larger than our modern-day equivalents. So they could accommodate larger teeth! And more of them
Today, we have smaller jaws and eat much softer foods, but our genes still produce third molars! When they don’t have enough room to emerge properly, wisdom teeth can begin erupting at crazy
angles—even horizontally! When teeth grow where there isn’t space for them, they cause a lot of problems.
It’s all about the “When”
Wisdom teeth can’t be removed in childhood because they haven’t fully developed yet. But they also shouldn’t wait until late adulthood if they’re causing problems. So, when is the right time? Each
case is individual – sometimes we don’t remove them at all! If a wisdom tooth is buried under the gums and jaw bone and doesn’t appear to be causing problems with the other teeth, then there may
be no reason at all to remove them.
OK, so there’s something else you should know. The roots of wisdom teeth can grow VERY close to a major nerve that runs through your jaw bone. This major nerve provides the feeling to all of your
lower teeth on that side, plus your lips, gums and the skin over your chin. If this nerve becomes damaged during wisdom teeth removal, it can cause loss of sensation on the affected side. So it’s
very important to do a risk/benefit analysis and to make sure we’re making the best recommendation.
Each case deserves its own time
So many variables exist that we are certain to look at each tooth one at a time. We’ll determine the risks and benefits of extraction vs. leaving everything alone, and we’ll help make a recommendation
that will keep your smile (and your wisdom!) intact for years to come!