How Did Wisdom Teeth Get Their Name?
Wisdom teeth are the last four teeth to grow in your mouth. You may not start to get them until you are in your twenties. By that time, you are supposed to have gained some wisdom, so these last teeth are often called “wisdom” teeth. Everyone is born with two sets of teeth.
Your first set of teeth start to come through your gums when you are about six months old. These are your baby teeth. At about the age of six, your baby teeth become loose and start to fall out, and permanent teeth grow in their places. A full set of teeth consists of thirty-two.
Wisdom teeth – once extremely useful – now serve little purpose. The reason for this is diet. As mankind evolved, so did our eating habits. Our diet once consisted of very coarse food, which caused teeth to abrade, or wear down, so significantly that they would take up less space in the jaw over time.
Because the food was so difficult to chew, the jaw was forced to work harder, causing it to develop into a larger bone. These factors, in addition to the frequent loss of teeth at an early age, created more room in the mouth for wisdom teeth when they came in.
Today’s processed food and modern dentistry have decreased the amount of wear on teeth and early tooth loss, causing us to have too many teeth and not enough space in the jaw to accommodate them. This causes wisdom teeth to become “impacted” – abnormally positioned and unable to fully erupt.
There are three categories of wisdom teeth:
Erupted: The wisdom teeth are fully erupted, aligned properly with your molars and do not indicate any need for removal.
Partially Erupted: The wisdom teeth are positioned so that only a portion of the teeth is visible.
Unerupted (Impacted): The wisdom teeth are trapped in the jawbone and unable to erupt.
Because of their positioning, erupted and partially erupted wisdom teeth are difficult to clean properly. Food debris that is left behind turns into plaque, which can eventually lead to tooth decay, gum disease and infection to your wisdom teeth, as well as their neighboring molars.
In addition to these risks, impacted wisdom teeth can sometimes form a cyst that is capable of damaging the roots of the adjacent healthy teeth, the jawbone and nerves. The best way to prevent future problems with your wisdom teeth is to visit your dentist on a regular basis. Yearly oral examinations and x-rays when necessary will help your dentist to determine if treatment is necessary.