Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are frustrating for many patients – they are a regular source of pain and infection. But if wisdom teeth are so problematic, why do we have them? It seems strange that evolution would give us teeth that are problematic and not necessary.

The Purpose Of Our Wisdom Teeth

Researchers believe that the reason modern humans have wisdom teeth is that our ancestors needed them for our diet. Ancient humans ate a lot of tough roots and leaves. This required large, strong jaws to process all that roughage and chew it so that it could pass down their gullets. “Wisdom teeth,” are a set of extra molars at the back of the mouth, helped considerably with this process by providing a large surface area on which to munch.


Our big brains are one of the causes of our wisdom tooth problems today. Big brains gave us the cognitive capacity to create fire and cook our food, but they also led to evolutionary pressures which changed size of our jaws, leading to current wisdom teeth problems. Cooking helped to break down the fibrous structures that hold plant matter and meat together, making it easier to chew and increasing the total number of calories available. With that our big jaws were no longer necessary.

The problem, however, is that while our jaws changed, we still have wisdom teeth. This for some patients can create a problem. 53 percent of adults with wisdom teeth do not have enough real estate in their mouths to accommodate the extra molars.

The Problems Caused By Wisdom Teeth

While wisdom teeth were necessary in our distant evolutionary past, that’s no longer the case today. Many patient do not have any wisdom teeth at all. We do not need an extra set of molars to chew our food since most patient eat a mainly cooked and processed diet.
Wisdom teeth, however, can cause a variety of problems for some patients. Often, there isn’t enough space for the tooth to emerge at the back of the mouth. The teeth can rotate and become “impacted” in the space next to the regular molars.
Impacted wisdom teeth doesn’t always lead to infection, but it is a common outcome. The gums surrounding the teeth can become swollen and inflamed. Pus can exude from the site and lead to a foul taste in your mouth and cause bad breath.
Worse still, if you leave the problem to fester, you can cause damage to the surrounding bone, which is why wisdom tooth extraction is vital.

Schedule An Appointment Today

If you still have your wisdom teeth, and they have become a nuisance then now is the time to schedule an appointment with Dental Partners of Boston. We look forward to talking with you about your particular situation to help alleviate your frustration with wisdom teeth.

Posted in Your Comfort, Your Health

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