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(480) 899-52402470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

Daniel G. Kline DDS - Chandler Dentist

(480) 899-5240

2470 West Ray Road Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224

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Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Posted by Editor in on June 1, 2017

Most Americans have been told they should have their wisdom teeth removed. Why do we still have them if we don’t need them? Spoiler—increasingly, there are people born without their wisdom teeth! It’s often recommended that we remove them because not only do we not need them, it’s really tough to properly clean all the way to the back of our mouths. Wisdom teeth and the surrounding areas are notorious for plaque buildup and bacteria. If your dentist thinks it’s more hygienic for you to remove them rather than keep battling them, you might want to listen up.

However, wisdom teeth weren’t always useless. Anthropologists think wisdom teeth, also known as our third molar set, evolved because our ancestors had to eat rough food like nuts, tough meats and roots. They needed to chew a lot more than we do! That led to excessive wear on the teeth. However, now that we (and our diet) have evolved, wisdom teeth are no longer a requirement. It’s a lot easier to eat a steak with a fork and knife rather than relying solely on our teeth.

Leftovers

Humans have a few “vestigial organs,” or body parts that are no longer functional. Evolution is incredible, but it can take a very long time for the entirety of one species to be rid of such body parts. That’s also why some people have wisdom teeth, some don’t, and some have anywhere from one to four—not everybody who has wisdom teeth has all four.

What did our ancestors do when their wisdom teeth were impacted, wouldn’t erupt or otherwise cause problems? Not much, and not just because they lacked the technology. Evolution has also caused our jaws and mouths to be smaller. When our ancestors needed wisdom teeth, there was plenty of room in their mouths for them. However, today wisdom teeth get crowded and cause crowding because they’re trying to squeeze in where there’s not enough space.

Talk to your dentist about the state of your wisdom teeth. Together, you can decide if it’s best to keep them, remove them, or just keep an eye on this evolutionary throwback.