Calling those teeth at the back of our mouths ‘wisdom teeth’ is the perfect evidence of how sometimes, names can be misleading. Not only do they not impart any wisdom at all, but they do not serve any recognised purpose whatsoever.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are relics of our evolutionary past and our distant ancestors had them for the purpose of consuming rougher foods such as reed plants and sticks. As other teeth fell out or wore down over the years, wisdom teeth provided us with a replacement set of grinders. With softer diets and advancements in oral hygiene, these replacement teeth no longer serve a purpose.
Furthermore, because wisdom teeth typically arrive 17 to 24 years after birth, they may become problematic as there is often not sufficient room for them to grow.
Modern diets contain a very small proportion of vitamin K2 which results in inadequate development of our jaws. This underdevelopment is believed to be another reason why there is less space in our mouths to accommodate wisdom teeth. Besides the lack of vitamin K2, decreased rates of breastfeeding and the presence of soft foods in infant diets are known to be further reasons behind underdevelopment of jaws.
When wisdom teeth need to be removed
If your wisdom teeth are unable to break through the gum line or have become impacted resulting from lack of space for proper growth or due to their position, it may become necessary for the wisdom teeth to be removed. The reason why they must be removed is that in certain cases impacted wisdom teeth may give rise to pain and infection.
Furthermore, the excess crowding of teeth due to the wisdom teeth’s emergence can lead to problems in chewing food. Teeth can only function correctly when it comes to chewing and biting, if they are properly aligned.
Things you need to know about wisdom teeth
The following are certain things that you may be interested in knowing about wisdom teeth:
They do not come in all at once
It is not necessarily the case that if your siblings all had their wisdom teeth by the age of 18 then you can expect them to come in around the same age. The age at which they appear can vary hugely from person to person. It is also not necessarily the case that all your wisdom teeth will make an appearance at the same time, or that if you have had three erupt without any problems, the fourth will follow suit. Sometimes, just one of your wisdom teeth can be problematic whilst the others have caused you no issues. The best way to track their progress is to undergo regular dental check-ups and x-rays.
Not all of them need extraction
As has been mentioned above, it is not always possible to predict whether each wisdom tooth will come in without causing any issues. Some may emerge without posing any problem at all, while others may wreak havoc.
If you are experiencing any pain in your wisdom teeth, seek the guidance of a dentist and ask them for their opinion. Occasionally, your dentist may recommend that a wisdom tooth should be extracted. They will only do so if they feel that it is the only way of preventing further discomfort or risk of infection.
Possibility of infection increases if wisdom teeth are impacted
A wisdom tooth that gets stuck in the gum tissue or the bone on its way out is known as an impacted wisdom tooth. It is quite common for people to have impacted wisdom teeth and they generally don’t cause any trouble. However, some dentists believe that infection becomes more likely if the wisdom tooth is impacted.
There have been cases where partially erupted wisdom teeth have been impacted as a result of exposure to bacteria inside the oral cavity. Such infections take root because the wisdom tooth creates pockets which are hard to clean and serves as a breeding ground for bacteria. If you experience swelling, redness, bad breath and pain in the surrounding areas, you may have an infection and you must get it checked out.
Removal isn’t always a bad experience
Many people delay receiving dental treatment as they fear surgical procedures. But such delays can prove to be costly in the long run.
Don’t always believe horror stories you may have heard from others! Most dentists will be happy to put your mind at ease if you share your concerns and can give you information on exactly what to expect with regards to the timeline for recovery, and the procedure itself… which is almost certainly not as bad as you fear! As your dentist will tell you, most people’s experiences are of a very straightforward procedure without any unmanageable post surgical pain or complications.
As with anything, the best way to prevent complications from arising is to detect issues early and bring them immediately to the attention of your dentist.
Not everyone has wisdom teeth
You may be surprised to know, but some people wait eagerly for their wisdom teeth to emerge, only to find that they never do.
Some individuals only have two or three wisdom teeth and the fourth one simply refuses to come in. You may also find people who have an extra set of wisdom teeth. The unpredictability of who has wisdom teeth and how many, makes it even more important for you to stay on top of your oral health and talk to your dentist regularly to address any concerns that you may have relating to your teeth and gums.
Irrespective of whether you have wisdom teeth issues or not, it is advisable to have regular appointments with your dentist to ensure that there are no problems and that they can be treated early, if there are.