What Are Wisdom Teeth?Your permanent teeth have two molars on each side of the top and bottom of our mouths. Between the ages of 17 and 21, many people develop a third molar in these places. We call these molars “wisdom teeth” because they appear at a more mature age than other teeth. While some people keep their wisdom teeth their entire lives, others have them removed. We’ll talk about the reasons behind removal in a little bit.
The Purpose of Wisdom TeethWhy do you have them in the first place if they need to be removed so often? After looking at previous humans’ bone structures and eating habits, anthropologists have a good guess. They think that people grow wisdom teeth as a result of the diets humans ate long ago. Early humans chewed on rough and coarse food like nuts, meats, leaves and roots. These meals wore down on the molars, so the body compensated by growing a third set later in life. However, we now have smaller mouths that don’t always have room for wisdom teeth. We also use utensils to eat food, making it much easier to chew tough foods.
Reasons for Wisdom Teeth RemovalSince some people don’t have space in their mouths for wisdom teeth to emerge correctly, the following problems can happen:
- Impaction: Erupting wisdom teeth can become stuck, or impacted, when they don’t have room to break through your gums. This impaction can crowd teeth and cause your gums to form painful and swollen flaps.
- Infection: The flaps that form on your gums due to impaction get infected easily. Infection can also happen under your gums, where a cyst grows around an impacted tooth.
- More difficult treatment: When you have a third set of molars, you have more teeth to clean. Since wisdom teeth appear in the very back of your mouth, you can have difficulty flossing and brushing them. Wisdom teeth can also create issues with orthodontic treatment.