There’s something curious about wisdom teeth. They’re not like baby teeth or permanent teeth. They come on the scene much later than other teeth. They may grow in between the ages of 17 and 25.
Why They’re Called “Wisdom Teeth”
Formally speaking, wisdom teeth are our third molars. The origin of the term is a little murky. In general, most sources repeat the same theory. That is, these teeth get their name because they only grow in when a person is more mature or “wise.”
In addition to being an elder-centric idea, this is also a very old idea. In fact, our English phrase appears to come from the ancient Latin phrase, “dens sapientiae.”
Whatever the origin, though, one thing is certain. When they do appear, the tranquil days of youth meet the responsibilities of adulthood.
Who needs them?
It seems we needed wisdom teeth in the past. Some scientists believe our third set of molars helped our ancestors to chew coarse food like leaves and roots.
However, like our appendix, they no longer serve us. In that sense, they’re “leftovers.” They don’t have a function any longer.
Like most leftovers, you can’t just ignore them. Oh, you can try. However, they have a way of making you pay attention. Sooner or later, you may have to do something about them. As with most things dental, prevention beats restoration.
Why Your Dentist May Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth frequently cause problems. When they do, they need to come out.
For example, they often grow in a way that can harm other teeth. An “impacted” wisdom tooth is a common problem of this type. This means the new tooth is pushing into the tooth next to it instead of growing up out of the gum. This can cause severe pain and may even lead to tooth decay or gum disease.
If wisdom teeth start to push your other teeth around, pain and problems can occur. In addition, your dentist may want to remove these teeth if they fail to emerge fully.
For these reasons, dentists often pull young adults’ third molars before they can cause any problems. If they do begin to cause pain, your dentist will almost certainly want to discuss their removal.
Learn more about wisdom teeth removal.