Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth seem like the perfect setup for a bad joke: if they’re so wise, why do they cause so much pain and hassle? Wisdom teeth, or the third set of molars that typically develop between the ages of 17 and 21, actually served a very real purpose once upon a time. While modern wisdom teeth are usually nothing more than a nuisance to be removed, our early ancestors relied on their third molars to cope with a diet filled with roughage, roots, seeds and nuts.  

What Are Wisdom Teeth?  

Wisdom teeth are given their moniker because of the age at which they emerge — presumably, you’re wiser than you were when the rest of your permanent teeth came in. Your first set of molars generally develops around age 6, with the second set coming in at around age 12. This third set of four molars develops all the way in the back of your mouth, behind the first two sets. Not every person develops wisdom teeth, and many who do find they don’t properly erupt (a condition called impaction) or grow in crowded or sideways.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

During the time that humans were a young species, these teeth aided in a diet that was hard to chew. Because we’ve grown to the point where we cook and soften our food, and aren’t relying so much on raw meat and tough roots, wisdom teeth are generally no longer necessary.

Because the human jaw has evolved to be smaller over time, wisdom teeth today generally cause more harm than good. Genetics plays a large part in whether or not you’ll grow wisdom teeth, with 53% of individuals having at least one in the course of their lifetime. Some people’s wisdom teeth develop correctly, properly emerge and cause no issues, while others’ are problematic. How yours will affect you is largely dependent on genetics and your personal anatomy.

What Problems Can They Cause?

Because we don’t necessarily need wisdom teeth with our modern diet and because the average jaw is smaller now than it was in the time of cavemen, wisdom teeth can cause a lot of problems because they literally have no space in our lives.


Wisdom teeth can cause issues relating to spacing, from crooked teeth to crowding. They can also not grow in right, emerging sideways or at an angle. Because of crowding, they can also contribute to greater-than-average tooth decay and cavities. In some cases, wisdom teeth are responsible for jaw pain ranging from mild to excruciating. It’s rare, yet possible, for wisdom teeth to cause cysts or even tumors below the gumline.

What Can Be Done About Wisdom Teeth?

Not all wisdom teeth need to be dealt with. Some people keep their wisdom teeth with no problems, either for a period of time or permanently. Those that are problematic are recommended for surgical removal.Wisdom tooth removal is a fairly standard procedure and can be done to remedy problems or to prevent them. Impacted wisdom teeth, or those that are trapped in the jaw or below the gumline, require surgical extraction, which is a bit more complex and involved than removing those that have emerged — even if they emerged sideways.

Teens and young adults tend to recover more quickly from wisdom tooth removal than older adults. Your dentist can advise the best course of treatment for your wisdom teeth based on the findings of an exam and X-rays.

Book Your Appointment Today

If you’re experiencing problems with your wisdom teeth or want to make sure they aren’t at the root of your dental problems, it’s best to book an appointment and have a thorough exam done. This allows you to get a comprehensive picture of what’s going on in your mouth and form a treatment plan to deal with your wisdom teeth.

Book your appointment with Maple Leaf Dental today to get started. Click here to send us an email to request a spot, or give the office a call at 281-497-5558. We’re ready to help you make a wise decision about how to handle your wisdom teeth.

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