If you’ve ever had your wisdom teeth removed, you probably don’t remember the experience fondly. Despite the fact that they don’t serve much of a purpose, these persistent extra molars keep popping up in humans’ mouths, generation after generation. So, why do we have wisdom teeth?
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
Having your wisdom teeth removed is a rite of passage that many of us have gone through. It’s a common procedure, and the temporary aches and swelling are a fair trade-off for avoiding dental complications down the line. However, it does seem a little strange that our bodies form permanent teeth that need to be removed by a dentist. Why do we have wisdom teeth?
Vestigial Features, Evolution, and Your Teeth
Believe it or not, wisdom teeth are not the only “spare parts” in the human body. Some are organs like appendixes or gallbladders, which serve some purpose but can be removed without issue. Other features, like the muscles that control ear twitches, serve no real purpose but a fun party trick. These are called vestigial features, and they are essentially leftovers from the evolutionary process.
Wisdom teeth may seem like nuisances now, but back in the early days of humanity, they were survival tools. Before food processors and microwaves, humans had to do a lot more chewing than they do now. Early human diets consisted of tough-to-chew but edible staples like roots, meat, and leaves. As human culture evolved, cooking and food preparation became more common, and food literally got easier to eat. With less chewing to do, we became less dependent on having additional molars to chew our food. As humans further evolved, jawlines also became smaller. This is why wisdom teeth tend to crowd the other teeth in the mouth and often need to be removed. We no longer really need them, but until the genes that create them are eliminated through the evolutionary process, they’ll still be around.
An interesting thing to note about wisdom teeth is that humans are increasingly being born without them. Anthropologists agree that it is possible that we will no longer have them at all within the next few generations. Good news for the teenagers of the future!
Will I Need to Get My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
In the future, wisdom teeth removal may not be the childhood milestone it is now. However, that doesn’t help us in the present. Most people’s wisdom teeth emerge before the age of 21, which is why they’re typically removed in your teenage years. However, some people make it into adulthood without having them removed, and experience no issues as a result. If you’re a teenager, do you need to have your wisdom teeth removed? Conversely, if you’re an adult that has never had them removed, will you have to do that eventually?
In the end, it comes down to the individual. Some people never get them removed, and never have any issues with them. Others need to get them removed for their dental health. This is why it is important to have regular dental appointments, including x-rays. A good dentist can keep tabs on your wisdom teeth and advise you as to whether or not an extraction will be necessary. If a dentist advises you to have them extracted, it’s best not to wait. They can be difficult to keep clean since they are so far back in the mouth, and they are particularly vulnerable to rot and decay. They can also cause crooked teeth and other dental issues.
Why do we have wisdom teeth? They were invaluable tools to early humans, but modern humans have outgrown the need for them. If you’re not sure if you need to have them removed or not, ask your dentist for their advice.
Looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist near Springfield, Missouri? Contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. For exceptional and comprehensive dental care, schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!