Did you know that approximately 85% of Americans have their wisdom teeth pulled? Wisdom teeth are the third molars that emerge between the ages of 16 and 20. When your dentist sees that your wisdom teeth are going to cause issues for the rest of your teeth, they may recommend wisdom teeth removal. When so many people have to have their wisdom teeth extracted, it makes you wonder why wisdom teeth are needed at all. Why do we have wisdom teeth? The answer may just lie in our ancestry.
Why did our ancestors have wisdom teeth?
The most widely accepted theory behind wisdom teeth asks us to look to the diet of our distant ancestors for answers. Early humans ate a much different diet than the soft foods we eat today. Our ancestors lived off a diet that consisted of roots, raw meat, and tough plants. To help them grind these tough foods, they developed a third set of molars and larger jaws to accommodate the extra teeth.
Today, humans have smaller jaws and eat much softer foods. However, our genes still produce wisdom teeth that no longer have room to grow. When wisdom teeth don’t have room to properly emerge through the gum line, they can come in at odd angles or even horizontally. In other words, impacted wisdom teeth can cause a lot of damage to your smile and undo years of orthodontics.
Do I need wisdom tooth extraction?
Your dentist will be able to look at your x-rays to determine if you’ll need wisdom tooth removal. Wisdom teeth don’t form until around the age of 10 and don’t emerge until early adulthood. This means that your dentist will have plenty of time to monitor the angles of the wisdom teeth and determine whether there’s enough space in your jaw to accommodate the extra teeth.
Wisdom teeth that are coming in crooked or are expected to crowd permanent teeth must be removed as soon as possible. If your jawbone is too small to accommodate wisdom teeth, these teeth may become trapped under the surface of the gum or may only partially erupt. In these scenarios, an impacted wisdom tooth can weaken bone structure, undo years of orthodontic treatment, and cause pain and infection.
Does everyone need wisdom tooth extraction?
While most people have wisdom teeth removal during early adulthood, there are some people who are able to keep some or all of their wisdom teeth. If your wisdom teeth are coming in straight and there’s enough space in the jaw, your dentist may tell you that a wisdom tooth extraction isn’t necessary.
Each patient’s dental history is unique, which is why your dentist will need to look at your x-rays to determine if you are able to keep your wisdom teeth. Your dentist will be able to show you x-rays of your teeth and explain the situation in a way that is easy for you to understand. That way, you’ll be able to schedule wisdom teeth surgery before an impacted tooth causes oral health issues.
Dr. Ritzema DDS and his team are dedicated to helping you maintain good oral health through wisdom tooth extraction and other restorative dentistry services. To schedule your appointment with our Grand Rapids dentist, call Complete Health Dentistry at (616) 458-7267.