Ah, wisdom teeth, we all have them… or do we? Truth is, there’s a lot that people don’t know about these pesky teeth other than that we have to get them removed (right?) and that they tend to be the last teeth to come in (we think).

The staff at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery see a lot of patients dealing with wisdom teeth concerns on a regular basis. For many patients, they don’t even realize their wisdom teeth could be a problem until they’re feeling some discomfort. Once patients do start experiencing discomfort they often don’t understand why or how to go about alleviating the pain. The staff at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery aim to alleviate any anxieties or uncertainties a patient may be feeling when it comes to their wisdom teeth. In this article we’ll share five things that you may have not known about those teeth in the back of your mouth – your wisdom teeth!

1. Why do we have wisdom teeth?

This is probably one of the most common questions people have when it comes to their wisdom teeth. It’s understandable after all – if we can expect to one day have to get our wisdom teeth removed, then why do we even have them? Well, the answer to that question traces back to prehistoric times when these teeth played a critical role in our survival.

See, during prehistoric times, our diets consisted largely of raw meat, leaves and roots – meaning these powerful teeth in the back of our mouths were very necessary. Overtime though, our diets began to change, cooking methods evolved and different types of foods became available. These changes made wisdom teeth less of a necessity since our diets were more palatable. Also, throughout evolution – over the course of hundreds of thousands of years – the shape and growth-rate of the human skull slowly changed to what it is now. Our skulls no longer have the space to accommodate our third molars, or wisdom teeth, which is why we often have to get them removed.

2. Why do we have to have them removed?

While we don’t need our wisdom teeth anymore, that’s not necessarily why we get them removed. Since our skulls have reduced in size since the times we depended on our wisdom teeth, we no longer have the extra space that they require. When wisdom teeth begin coming in without the space they need, they become impacted and cause discomfort.

An impacted wisdom tooth can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, especially with eating. When a wisdom tooth is unable to erupt through the gum line properly, it may force the surrounding teeth out of place. Discomfort, risk of infection and possibility of shifting the surrounding teeth out of place are the main reasons that people have their wisdom teeth removed. Since we no longer need our wisdom teeth, it’s just often not worth the risk of hoping your mouth has enough space for them.

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3. How many do we have?

Another surprising fact about wisdom teeth, or third molars, is that the number can vary from person to person. Historically, we have four wisdom teeth – two on the top and two on the bottom. However, some people may have less than four wisdom teeth actually come in, or none at all. Also, there have been some rare cases throughout modern times where someone has had more than four wisdom teeth come in.

The number of wisdom teeth that a person may have is partly influenced by their genes and lineage. The number of roots a wisdom tooth has can also vary. The roots are the part of the tooth that grows first and lies under the gum line, much like a plant’s roots. Wisdom teeth usually have two or three roots, but there have been cases where a patient has had more!

4. They may not stick around forever

Even though our wisdom teeth have managed to hang on for this long, they may not be here forever. Scientists say that eventually, evolution may take care of our wisdom teeth and future generations may not grow them at all. While this will probably not be for centuries – evolution is slow after all –  at least future generations may not have to live with the pain, discomfort and removal associated with growing these redundant teeth.

5. Surgery is not as scary as you think

So we’ve covered that wisdom teeth are not necessary, the number can vary and complications can arise if we don’t get them removed. The good news, though? Surgery isn’t as scary as you may think! A lot of people dread the idea of going to the dentist – let alone going to the oral surgeon. However, wisdom tooth removal is an extremely common procedure for oral surgeons. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 80% of the population would be unable to successfully house their full-grown wisdom teeth, making the need for removal necessary for the vast majority of people.

While oral surgery may seem daunting, it’s actually a fairly simple procedure that can be done in an oral surgeon’s office. The staff at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery strives to ensure that every patient is made comfortable during the extraction process and is fully informed at what the process entails before, during and after surgery.

Hopefully you’re feeling a little bit more wise when it comes to your wisdom teeth. It’s important to see your dentist regularly and be mindful of any discomfort or pain you may be feeling stemming from the growth of your wisdom teeth. While we don’t need these teeth anymore, removal is often necessary for more than just this reason. Ultimately, it’s just not worth the risk of complications that wisdom teeth can cause which is why it’s best for many people to just have them removed. If you’re concerned about any discomfort or want to know the status of your wisdom teeth, visit the team at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery!

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