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Third molars are the last teeth to emerge, usually at about the same time people enter adulthood.  This is why they are commonly called wisdom teeth. However, unlike the knowledge that comes with adulthood, people often choose to get rid of their wisdom teeth.  Some might even say it’s become a rite of passage. But what are wisdom teeth? Why does our body make them? And why are they so frequently removed?

It is hypothesized by evolutionary anthropologists that wisdom teeth are vestigial organs, meaning they serve no purpose.  When humans were primitive, a normal diet consisted mostly of roots, leaves and nuts so the third molars served as support for other teeth as they got worn down from such a rough diet. Modern diets feature a much softer selection of foods and utensils make our food easier to consume, so wisdom teeth have, in essence, lost their purpose.  

Jaws have also changed over time – becoming  smaller – and leaving little room for wisdom teeth.  With this change, wisdom teeth often impact or block teeth around them which can cause complications. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons estimate that up to 85 percent of wisdom teeth need to be extracted.  Impacted wisdom teeth pose serious problems for the rest of the mouth and can result in pain, infection and cavities. X-rays are most effective in diagnosing problematic wisdom teeth. For instance, it may seem that a tooth may have erupted, however, instead it is pushing into another molar.  Wisdom teeth that do not erupt can also cause issues such as crowding, displacement of teeth, gum disease, damage to adjacent teeth, or in extreme cases cysts or tumors.

There are certain cases when wisdom teeth will erupt and perform as well as other teeth, but most of the time third molars impact other teeth and are also susceptible to cavities. It is recommended that extractions be done at a younger age as more complications arise when patients wait until they are older.  Regular check-ups at Smiles Unlimited Dentistry, P.C., will allow us to monitor your wisdom teeth and extract them if and when they need to come out!



Keywords: wisdom teeth, extractions, third molars, Smiles Unlimited Dentistry, P.C.

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