We’ve all known someone who seemed to be closer to a Cro-Magnon man than a modern person. At least they have some teeth in common.
Whoever coined the term “wisdom teeth” wasn’t a dentist. This third set of molars is a leftover from our bigger-forehead days and basically only causes trouble in modern times. Fortunately, the Gentle Dental team will take out your caveman teeth before they can do much damage to the rest of your smile.
What are wisdom teeth?
Before we get to the dental lingo, let’s start with a little anthropology. Vestigial organs — that’s what anthropologists call things like your appendix, your tailbone, and your wisdom teeth. These organs are no longer of any use for modern humans: they’re a relic of our prehistoric past.
Back when mastodons were stomping on us, it made sense to have a third set of molars. Our diets consisted of leaves, roots, nuts, and some very tough meat. All of this required far greater chewing power and caused greater wear and tear on our teeth. To make room for this extra set of molars, prehistoric jaws were longer than our current model.
Fast-forward to today, aged filet mignon and tiramisu are a little easier to chew, and our wisdom teeth are no longer needed. They didn’t get the memo, however, and they still try and make their way down into our mouths. These are the ages when the three sets of molars generally come in: the first set erupts around age six, the second set at age 12, and the third set (wisdom teeth) somewhere between the ages of 17 and 25. That’s where the “wisdom” moniker comes from, as by that age, hopefully, we are a little bit smarter than our younger days.
Why do I have to get my wisdom teeth pulled?
We can get away with our tailbone and appendix, but the arrival of our wisdom teeth is invariably bad news. If we still had longer jaws everything would be fine, but our modern shorter jaw length means there isn’t any room for a third set of molars. So, when your wisdom teeth come down they become impacted (blocked) by the other teeth. They can come in sideways, pushing on the adjacent teeth. They sometimes are surrounded by bone. Often one wisdom tooth will partially erupt, creating pockets in the gums that are perfect places for bacteria to thrive.
Although you may know someone who has their erupted wisdom teeth in place, people like that are very, very rare. Others seem to never have had their wisdom teeth come down and cause havoc. Those few are evolutionarily advanced! For the rest of us, the wisdom teeth simply cause the other teeth to be pushed out of position and other dental issues, and they need to be extracted.
Summer is a great time to yank out those caveman teeth before they start causing havoc with you teenager’s smile. Call us at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660, and schedule the surgery. That way your son or daughter won’t have to miss school.