The last teeth to develop and erupt into the jaws are called
the third molars. Third molars usually erupt in the late
teen years, which coincides with passage into adulthood and
is referred to by some as the age of "wisdom
Wisdom teeth used to serve a useful purpose, but are now
considered vestigial organs. A vestige is a degenerative or
imperfectly formed organ or structure which no longer
performs a useful function. Wisdom teeth have become "outdated"
for many reasons. Our ancestors’ diet was made up of far
coarser food than our own and a lack of hygiene meant that
impurities such as dirt and sand were consumed regularly.
This caused teeth to abrade significantly which meant they
took up less space in the jaw. Permanent teeth were also
frequently lost at an early age, which would create more
space in the jaw. Due to the coarseness of the food it was
harder to chew and the jaw itself would develop into a
larger bone as it was working much harder. All of these
factors would create more space for the wisdom teeth when
they came in.
Wisdom teeth serve no useful function and will often cause
damage because when a wisdom tooth becomes partially exposed through the gums
it cannot be cleaned properly and can collect food debris, bacteria and plaque around itself.
This can result in tooth decay, gum disease, infection and abscess of not only the wisdom
teeth, but of the nearby molars and surrounding gum
tissue. The molars in front of the wisdom teeth are sometimes lost because of cavities
and gum disease caused by the inability to clean the wisdom
teeth properly. Cyst formation and other destructive
pathology are also seen around impacted wisdom teeth.
There may be pain and swelling, or you may have no symptoms
at all, even though the other teeth in your mouth may be at risk of damage.
If removal of the wisdom teeth is necessary, the procedure
is recommended in the late teenage years, before the roots
are completely formed. Surgical procedures in general are
better tolerated when one is young and healthy, and the gum
tissues tend to heal better and more predictably when young.
Most people experience minimal disruption of their normal
routines, and time off from work or school is usually
minimal. At this point it is worth noting that the removal of wisdom teeth
can be of great benefit to your ultimate oral and general