Let’s face it, wisdom teeth are something that us humans have come to dread. In fact
according to EZ Teether, as much as90% of all UK 20 year old’shave at least one wisdom
tooth that hasn’t erupted at all, or has erupted partially. So this begs the question…why
would we be given teeth that cause us so many problems? Well, the answer goes way back
to our ancestors.
Why we have wisdom teeth? – Blame our ancestors!
Needless to say our earliest ancestors had a totally different diet. Rather than cooked fish
meat, vegetables and the occasional pizza, they were living on raw meat, nuts, roots and
berries. They didn’t have the luxury of using knives to cut and prepare food or heat to cook
them. As such, chewing these foods sufficiently enough for digestion needed broader jaws
and stronger molars and therefore third molars – more commonly known as wisdom teeth –
were vital for our ancestors to be able to survive.
As the larger jaw was common in ancient people these third molars could easily be
accommodated as it allowed them to erupt in the jaw naturally. Wisdom teeth were so
important to our ancestors that without them, it’s possible a person could die. In fact, a
skeleton unearthed in Kenya in 1984 was dated to be approximately 1.6 million years old. He
was a relatively young man and the cause of death was thought to be in part because his
wisdom teeth hadn’t erupted properly and therefore he hadn’t been able to digest food
So, why don’t we need them today?
Fast forward a million or so years to our present day and our diet plays a very big part in the
non-reliance on our wisdom teeth. Nowadays we cut, dice, boil, steam or bake pretty much
everything we eat. This lengthy food prep ritual has made the action of chewing and eating,
a pretty easy experience. Experts believe that over thousands of years of evolution, our jaws
have naturally become smaller due to our diet and the way we prepare and cook foods. As
such, there isn’t much room in the modern-day jaw to accommodate our 32 teeth including
our third molars – and this is the reason why our wisdom teeth cause us so many problems.
What problems can wisdom teeth cause?
One of the main issues of modern-day wisdom teeth is that because there is limited space in
the jaw, when they do erupt they can undermine or crowd many of the adjacent teeth
causing further problems.
On other occasions wisdom teeth don’t fully erupt because they’re blocked by the existing
teeth and therefore become impacted. Even in patients where wisdom teeth do manage to
grow, dentists may suggest that in some instances, third molars are extracted for better long
term health. In many cases everyday oral care of wisdom teeth can prove difficult because
they’re located so far back in the mouth. Therefore keeping them free from plaque and
bacteria is a tricky task at the best of time.
Why are they called wisdom teeth?
You might think that there isn’t much ‘wisdom’ in having teeth that don’t really serve a
function. However it’s more to do with the time they erupt that predetermines why they’re
often referred to as ‘wisdom teeth’.
Because the third molars are always the last to erupt (usually between the ages of 17 and
21) the name harps back to the old adage that with age comes wisdom.
If you haven’t had a regular dental examination you mightn’t even be aware that there’s a
problem with your wisdom teeth. Dr Altaaf Hathiari and the team at 44 Dental carry out
thorough dental examinations using the latest technology. This enables them to highlight
problems early and suggest the best course of action for your long-term oral health.
If you’re experiencing wisdom tooth pain or feel it’s about time you underwent a dental
check-up, then call 44 Dental Care on 0116 251 9647. Our highly experienced team can help.