Basic education teaches us that there are five types of teeth that grow in one’s lifetime. They are: incisors, canines, premolars, molars, and wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars. However, most people may not know that the last set of teeth doesn’t necessarily have to come out.
But how is this possible? Do you need to get worried if your wisdom teeth don’t come out? What role do wisdom teeth play in our mouths anyway?
Find the answers to these and other questions in our comprehensive guide on wisdom teeth. But first…
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to come out in an adult. They are also referred to in clinical and dental terms as third molars. These teeth usually come out during adult years, mostly from the ages of 17 to 25.
But, does everyone have wisdom teeth? Each person gets four wisdom teeth on average, one for each quarter of the mouth. However, in some instances, there are people that never had wisdom teeth and these teeth may never develop.
What is the purpose of wisdom teeth?
Today, you can easily get by without your wisdom teeth. In fact, they are sometimes a source of pain and misery to some people, and the only solution would be to have them extracted. But if we don’t need them, why did we have them in the first place?
Well, the importance of wisdom teeth could be traced way back to our ancestors. Before we delve further into the topic, it would be prudent to understand the role that wisdom teeth played for the prehistoric man:
The evolution theory and wisdom teeth
Millions of years ago, before man was fully evolved, he used to walk on four limbs with a massive protruding jaw leading the way. This was one of the reasons we don’t have any evidence of dental surgeries to remove third molars tracing to those years, as all 32 teeth would comfortably fit inside one’s mouth.
Furthermore, it would also help to note that man used to eat raw meat and root vegetables before the invention of fire. Chewing such foods would have been tough, hence the need for third molars.
Today’s foods are much softer, and we also cook our food, meaning that we don’t use wisdom teeth as much as our ancestors did.
The discovery of the chromosomal mutation, MYH16, indicates an evolutionary trait that has seen humans develop larger brains. This would, in turn, impact the size of the jaw, creating less room for wisdom teeth.
Why do some people lack wisdom teeth?
Exposing yourself to a dental X-ray would enable you to determine whether you have wisdom teeth or you were born without wisdom teeth. Alternatively, if you are keen enough, you can use your tongue to count all the teeth in your mouth. If they’re 32 in total, then you have the whole set, but if they’re less, and you haven’t had any extraction, you may lack wisdom teeth.
Assuming you’re past 25, and you have no wisdom teeth erupting yet, you shouldn’t start worrying, as this is normal. This set of teeth may not come in for certain people. In fact, some studies have revealed that the percentage of people without wisdom teeth is up to 35%.
Some of the reasons behind this are:
Should you remove your wisdom teeth?
So far in this post, we have learned that wisdom teeth had more meaning many years ago for our ancestors. They needed them for eating and also as a result of the jaw structure, which later evolved. We do not really need wisdom for our everyday survival. This means that you shouldn’t start worrying if your wisdom teeth do not come in.
However, what about the case of someone that has them but wants to have them removed? Is it safe? Is it recommended?
For starters, it is never recommended to have your wisdom teeth removed, not unless there’s a good reason for it. For instance, your dentist may notice that there isn’t enough space in your jaw to accommodate an extra set of molars or that they’ve become impacted.
Furthermore, if they become impacted, you may feel a lot of discomforts when you start experiencing the signs of wisdom teeth coming in. At times, erupting wisdom teeth can have complications such as:
However, this can happen again, on and off for several weeks or even months. If left untreated, the pain you experience each other time will be more severe than the last, making it harder for you to chew or talk.
As the wisdom teeth put pressure on nerves, the pain may become more regular. This is one of the reasons why wisdom teeth cause headaches.
Removing wisdom teeth as a preventive measure
In some cases, some people prefer to have their wisdom teeth removed, even before they have fully emerged. This is done as a preventive measure for all the negative impacts impacted wisdom teeth may bring.
Instead of waiting to face all the pain and discomfort, one can easily have them removed, but only at the approval of their dentist. Failure to have them removed before they’re fully developed will force the patient to undergo surgery to have them extracted.
Furthermore, wisdom teeth removal cost is much lower than going through the surgery. Besides, you also get to avoid all the problems that you may face after dental surgery that could last a few days, such as:
These are some of the key reasons that can lead you to have your wisdom teeth removed.
The lack of wisdom teeth is a rare but normal occurrence. As we can see, there are various reasons behind this phenomenon, including genetics. If you have them and aren’t facing any signs of discomfort, it would be advisable to schedule regular visits to your dentist to have them monitored before they become a significant concern.
When do wisdom teeth come in?
Wisdom teeth generally start to come in at the early stages of adulthood, mostly between 17 and 25. However, due to some factors such as genetics and impacted teeth, some people may get them at a later stage and some people may find later in life that wisdom teeth never came in.
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
A wisdom tooth is considered impacted if there isn’t enough room or space to come in after the second molar. Should it erupt, it will affect the jaw structure as it repositions nearby teeth.
Do I need to go to the dentist if my wisdom teeth don’t come?
If you go to your dentist to tell them “I don’t have wisdom teeth”, they will tell you to not worry about anything as it is not a problem. In fact, if your wisdom teeth don’t come in by the time you hit 25 years, you will skip some pain and a recovery. For some people, wisdom teeth may take a lot longer to come, while others may never get them. However, it is highly recommended to keep regular dental visits so that you’re sure they are not impacted.