Why do we even have wisdom teeth? I’m so glad that you asked! The current theory behind why most of us have wisdom teeth is explained by ancestors past. In our diets today, we consume more processed and controlled food compared to primitive hunter-gatherer communities when debris such as bone and rocks would make their way into the food cooked over an open flame. Because of their primitive harvesting, preparation, and food cooking methods, tooth loss is theorized to have been common among our ancestors. The wisdom teeth, or third molars as they are technically referred to, would have the ability to migrate into place after a caveman experienced tooth loss.
Today, we are privileged to have rock and debris-free food and we can more easily keep our teeth. As a result, we commonly do not have the space in our jaw to hold onto our wisdom teeth. If third molars are left in the jaw, problems can arise including, but not limited to, decay, infection, collateral damage from other teeth, or issues with the underlying nerves. Third molars commonly do not calcify as well as the rest of our teeth and therefore, can be much more susceptible to tooth decay even in the best of situations. Due to the angle at which the wisdom teeth erupt, it is common that only part of the third molar will break through the gum tissue. This partial eruption allows harmful bacteria to get under the gums and can cause infection and abscesses to form in this area of the mouth. In a situation called collateral damage, the teeth next to the third molar can start to break down if the tooth erupts into its neighbor – the second molar.
An additional factor to be aware of is the proximity of the nerve to the developing third molar. In rare cases, third molar roots can actually wrap around this nerve. The nerve has functions that include contributing to taste, temperature sensation, and function of the tongue and the lower teeth. If this third molar is removed too late, permanent damage can occur to this nerve during surgery. While this is an exceptional case, it is important to be educated on the reasons why removing wisdom teeth can be extremely important and a time-sensitive issue. Having a good education about the eruption and associated issues of wisdom teeth can help patients make good and informed decisions.
Unfortunately, when these wisdom tooth problems are left too long, it can cause patients to need both the second and third molars removed. For this reason, it’s important to address any wisdom tooth issues in a timely manner.
If you are having issues with your wisdom teeth or think you may have issues soon, come in for a consultation so we can educate you on next steps. Call us at 720-853-0350 or reach us by email at [email protected]. You can also instantly schedule an appointment here.