Why do we have wisdom teeth? Why are they sometimes painful?

As you enter adulthood, your wisdom teeth also start to emerge and let you feel their presence at the back portion of your mouth. The third molars are the last set of teeth, which comes during the ‘age of wisdom’ from 17 to 25 years of age.

Others tend to have their wisdom teeth grow out fine. However, some have their wisdom teeth emerge improperly, increasing risks for dental conditions, diseases, or the need for them to be removed entirely. Nearly 95 percent of American teens develop wisdom teeth that have minimal chances to function accordingly.

If they won’t function in a normal way, why would they still emerge anyway? Well, the wisdom teeth are said to be evolutionary relics, stemming from our ancestors. Early humans are diets composed of more robust foods, such as roots, nuts, sticks, reed plants, and uncooked raw meat. The second molars tend to wear down or fall out sooner, which is why the third set of molars is needed to serve as replacements. Undoubtedly, the need for wisdom teeth is far more substantial for our ancestors than for us. Nowadays, we have more tools for oral health, and we eat relatively softer diets, eliminating the need for replacement teeth, yet our third molars still grow in.

While it’s rare, some individuals don’t have to deal with the problem and pain as they never develop wisdom teeth at all. That can be traced to the reduction in the size of our jaw and face through the past 2000 decades. Such a decrease in size happens since we no longer eat the same diet and hunter ancestors used to before.

But, once it does grow, it usually creates problems. Our body programmed the wisdom teeth to emerge during the late adolescence stage or the early twenties so that the jaw would have ample space to hold such huge teeth.

However, the third molars often grow how the body programmed them to be, either the jaw is too small, or the wisdom teeth are just too big. With that, it creates a lack of space, wisdom teeth are forced to pop out sideways, emerge partially, or don’t come out at all, getting trapped in the jawbone and inside the gums, all causing the pain we experience.

Wisdom teeth that didn’t emerge fully are typically more at risk with infection, tooth decay, gum disease, and inflammation. They are harder to reach and clean, increasing the risk of bacteria contamination. They can also protrude on ‘inappropriate’ parts of the gum, which can lead to pain.

Meanwhile, entirely impacted wisdom teeth can get infected within, push, and cause overcrowding or disarray with other molars’ positioning. It can damage other teeth and lead to various dental problems, such as bone and nerve damage, growth of jaw tumors, and cysts. Thus, requiring them to be removed through surgery. The procedure is rather quick and can be carried out through local anesthetics. Full recovery comes in a couple of days.

To those who are fortunate to have their third molars break through completely, risks are still present and can deter a person from having a healthy mouth. The wisdom teeth are situated far back in the mouth, and most people cannot reach them. Thus, making it easier for food to get trapped between the teeth. Such an occurrence results to even more problems, such as cavities, plaque, and gum disease.

More Readings:

Wisdom Tooth (Wikipedia)

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