Developing wisdom teeth can be a very bad experience for many people. While they are erupting they cause swelling and pain at the site where they have to be removed shortly after. Additionally, in many instances they will be removed before they ever come through, due to infection or if they cause the other teeth to be crooked. So why are they there, anyway?

 Our wisdom teeth are a throw-back to our earliest ancestors. Anthropologists believe that early man needed those extra molars because of the diet they ate. Their diet mostly consisted of very tough things like roots, nuts and meat. They needed those wisdom teeth to help them chew tough foods. In addition, the jaw of early man was bigger than our jaws today, making it much easier to accommodate those extra teeth. It is also thought that if early man lost a tooth, then the wisdom teeth made it easier to push the rest of the teeth forward for the best chance at chewing and biting.

Our modern diets and nutrition include many processed foods. We eat fewer foods that are tough to chew. Our foods are cut, cooked and chopped for us, and we just don’t need the added help from those molars. Plus, evolution has made our jaws smaller. There is less room in our mouths today and this makes the wisdom teeth difficult to accommodate.

Since teeth develop in stages, the wisdom teeth don’t even begin to form in our jaws until we are about 10 years old. They usually begin to erupt between 17 and 25. They are actually called ‘wisdom’ teeth because it is assumed we have gained more wisdom by that age. Not all of us develop wisdom teeth, but if we do, we usually get four. Some people never grow wisdom teeth at all, and rarely, some people actually develop more than four. Science has no idea why this is true.

Wisdom teeth are considered to be completely useless to modern man. They can cause all sorts of problems. Many times they are blocked from erupting by the teeth around them and this can lead to them becoming infected or impacted inside the jaw. They can cause crowding and make the rest of our teeth crooked. There are those lucky few who have no problems at all with their wisdom teeth. But dentists calculate that 85 percent of all people will have to have their wisdom teeth removed.

If you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, it is best to try and get this done early. Dentists recommend you have them removed before the age of 35 if possible. This type of oral surgery is more complicated after that age. It is even recommended that it is best to have them taken out before the age of 20, when the roots are not yet fully formed. Not all dentists agree with this, however.