Wisdom teeth are also known as the third molars, and they are known as wisdom teeth because they are the last teeth to appear in the mouth. They usually arrive when you are between 17 and 21 years old, supposedly when you are wiser. But does everyone have wisdom teeth? Well no, not everybody will develop wisdom teeth in their lives and this varies by population and ethnicity.
These instances where wisdom teeth do not grow at all are known as third molar agenesis (or M3 agenesis). M3 Agenesis occurs when certain genes do not activate and the wisdom teeth do not develop. This is a relatively recent evolutionary development and may be caused by diet or other pressures such as the human mouth getting smaller.
Originally, wisdom teeth were for grinding plant material from a diet high in cellulose. As agriculture and farming overtook the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, our diets changed and became less reliant on these high cellulose foods, so the wisdom teeth became increasingly unnecessary.
In people who do grow wisdom teeth, sometimes they have to be removed. In fact, wisdom teeth are the most likely teeth of all to be removed, particularly in the developed world where dentistry is readily available.
The reasons for removal are varied and a dentist will usually advise removal in the following cases:
- Gum Disease
- Dental Caries
In a lot of cases, antibiotics would clear these problems without the need for extraction. Sometimes though, wisdom teeth are removed as a precautionary measure to prevent any future complications.
Wisdom teeth may also be removed if there is any evidence of impaction. This is caused by the wisdom teeth impacting against other teeth in the mouth, generally due to having a small mouth. A dental x-ray will usually identify any serious problems.
In summary, not everyone has wisdom teeth and some people have them removed. But if you do have them, it doesn’t make you any smarter.