Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars that emerge, usually appearing in the late teens or early twenties. No one is completely sure why we get wisdom teeth, although theories abound. In general, these teeth are considered vestigial, in that they once had a function but now are considered unimportant.
Theories About Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to arrive, and by the time they emerge, most people don’t have enough room remaining in their mouths to accommodate them. They tend to become impacted, pushing against adjacent teeth and unable to completely emerge through the gums. They often become infected, causing severe discomfort, at which point they should be removed.
So why do we get teeth that are of no use to us, and that instead cause problems? No one is completely sure. However, it’s possible that at one time in human adaptation, these teeth were useful additions to our dentition. Since humans are omnivorous—which means we will eat just about anything—our molars tend to wear down. Without dental expertise, our ancient ancestors probably lost molars over time as they matured. Whether they wore down and became unusable or became severely decayed, or fell out due to gum disease, these back molars needed to be replaced. Since to our ancestors, the twenties represented middle age, the wisdom teeth arrived just in time to replace teeth that had fallen out or to augment teeth rendered nearly useless by wear or decay.
Do I Have to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
With the arrival of sophisticated dental expertise and technology, we no longer need a third set of molars to replace teeth that have fallen out or decayed. Our other molars stay healthy and usable our whole lives, in many cases. As a result, many people find themselves turning to an oral surgeon to remove their wisdom teeth.
It isn’t always necessary to have these teeth removed, however. Some people do have enough room to support another set of molars. Other people might be missing a 6-year or 12-year molar, in which case the wisdom tooth can take its place. Still other people don’t have all four wisdom teeth. If you do have problems with these molars, though, such as extreme discomfort or obvious infection, be sure to talk to our oral surgeons about having them removed.
Call Northern Virginia Oral, Maxillofacial and Implant Surgery to set up your consultation with one of our caring doctors.