Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

August 5, 2020

The topic of wisdom teeth comes up a lot between patients and dentists. It’s easy to understand the purpose of baby and adult teeth — but what about those four teeth that grow at the back of our mouths? What are wisdom teeth used for — and if they have a purpose, why do they get pulled so often?

AZ Family Dental is here to provide some answers. With more than 40 years of experience as a local family-centered dental practice in Glendale, we provide expert consulting and care for a variety of dental needs. In this post, we offer our insights into wisdom teeth extraction. If you have any questions or need help with a wisdom tooth issue, we’re just a phone call away!

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Your third set of molars — more popularly known as wisdom teeth — grow in the very back of your mouth. Most people have a set on the bottom and top of their mouth, with four wisdom teeth total. These teeth typically lay dormant until between the ages of 17 and 21.

Despite the positive nickname, wisdom teeth can cause some tricky problems when they erupt. They often grow in crooked or sideways, causing issues like overcrowding or misaligned teeth. For this reason, many patients choose to have their wisdom teeth taken out, either before or after they start to grow in.

Why Do We Get Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are believed to have an evolutionary tie to the past. Centuries ago, our distant ancestors had a very different diet than we do today. They ate rougher foods and didn’t have access to modern dental care and hygiene. Wisdom teeth essentially provided a replacement to teeth that wore down over time.

Today, our diet is comprised of soft foods that are easy to eat. We’re able to cut and cook all of our ingredients, giving our teeth a break from damage caused by tough chewing. We have also advanced leaps and bounds in dental technology and hygiene practices, enabling us to take care of our adult teeth. As a result, wisdom teeth are largely considered unnecessary.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Get Pulled?

Unlike our ancestors, we no longer need our wisdom teeth as replacements — yet they still grow in. Because our mouths can only hold 28 teeth, there is no room for wisdom teeth. As they erupt, they can start to cause painful symptoms, like teeth overcrowding and bone or nerve damage. Some wisdom teeth grow straight, while others grow sideways, pushing against the molar next to it. Impacted wisdom teeth — those that cannot fully erupt due to a lack of space — can lead to inflammation and discomfort.

In addition to potentially damaging growth, the location of our wisdom teeth makes it difficult to properly care for them. Because they’re in the back of our mouths, it’s hard to clean them thoroughly.

As a result, many dentists advise patients to have their wisdom teeth pulled. Sometimes this procedure is done during adolescence before the teeth can start to cause problems. In other cases, wisdom teeth are removed when they start to erupt or become impacted.

Schedule an Appointment at AZ Family Dental

If you’re experiencing any discomfort with your wisdom teeth or want to discuss having them removed, AZ Family Dental can help. We provide high-quality dental care geared toward the whole family. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment or ask us any questions.

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