Many people question the purpose of their wisdom teeth. After all, every feature in the human body seems to work with a purpose. Why would you have a feature that appears useless or needs to be removed? The answer is simple – evolution. Find out why you have wisdom teeth and why it may be necessary to remove them.

Why do you have wisdom teeth?

Over time, the human body evolved. Over the past centuries, human life changed. With changes in diet, technology, and social life, the human body slowly changed.  Although it didn’t happen overnight, humans started to develop ways to adapt to their new life. But evolution is a slow and select process. Although humans lost some features that they once had, they also maintained some that they no longer need.

One of those features is wisdom teeth. Today, anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth helped our ancestors eat. When human’s first walked the earth, they ate mostly coarse and rough food. Instead of cooking food down, they needed to chew coarse leaves, roots, and nuts. For protein, they ate mostly meat. However, even the meat was tougher than the meat that we have today. Chewing all that food required an extra set of teeth. In a likelihood, wisdom teeth served that purpose. As the third set of molars, they could handle the tough materials. Without them, our ancestors would have extreme wear on their teeth. And with no dentists available, that usually meant an early death.

Today, food is much softer than it once was. Modern cooking softens meat and vegetables. Instead of chewing tough food every meal, your teeth get a break. Additionally, modern-day technology like sharp knives and forks make it easier to pre-cut food. You don’t put the same wear on your teeth that cavemen once did. For this reason, evolutionary biologists consider wisdom teeth to be vestigial body parts. They classify with other body parts, like the appendix, which has no obvious function.

Late Bloomers

Wisdom teeth arrive later in life than your other teeth. This may also be due to your ancestor’s needs. While other teeth develop in your youth, wisdom teeth don’t show up until you are anywhere between 17 and 25 years of age. When your ancestors relied on wisdom teeth to chew foods, they needed them later in life. If they developed at a younger age, then the teeth would wear out too quickly. By developing later, the teeth allowed humans to chew into adulthood. If they wore out too early, then there was no procedure to replace them. Wearing out a tooth meant that you had to work harder to eat. Once it was gone, you had to live without it.

The Problem with Wisdom Teeth

It’s true that you don’t need your wisdom teeth. But why do you need to remove them? After all, most other vestigial body parts remain a part of you. These teeth are different because they can cause problems for you. In the past, the human jaw was larger. Over time, it became smaller in size. As a result, your mouth does not have enough room for wisdom teeth. Your ancestors had no issues with them. However, your smaller jaw means that your wisdom teeth get in the way of your other teeth.

For some people, there are no issues. In this situation, your doctor would not recommend removal. However, most people need to have their extra teeth removed. They can cause health issues that make your life more difficult. Here are a few reasons why you might need a dentist to remove yours:

1. Food can get stuck in your gums

If your new tooth only partially erupts, then you could have gum tissue surrounding the tooth. Cleaning food from the gum tissue is almost impossible. Even a thorough cleaning might not get the job done. As food gets stuck in your gum tissue, it attracts bacteria. Then, you could develop an infection. You may need a dentist to remove your wisdom tooth to prevent an infection.

2. Impacted by other teeth

If your teeth are impacted, then they can’t break through your jaw. When this happens, you can experience pain and discomfort. The only way to fix the issue is to remove your wisdom tooth. Failing to remove it could cause damage to your other teeth.

3. Anticipating problems

As you age, the bones in your mouth become harder. This makes removing teeth a difficult task. To prevent future troubles, your dentist might recommend removing molars before you have any problems. If you wait too long to remove them, then you could have problems after surgery. For example, you could have heavy bleeding or fractured teeth. In extreme situations, you could lose some movement in your jaw. Your dentist might want to be proactive and remove your wisdom teeth before it’s too late to safely do so.