Wisdom teeth are certainly a curious phenomenon, because although almost everyone has them – and many people have several of them – we generally do not need them and they only offer us problems, not functional solutions to any practical dental health needs of ours. Usually they have to be removed, which can be a painful process, especially for adults, so we often wonder why in the world we have them in the first place.

Most historians and language experts say that the reason they are referred to as wisdom teeth is only because they appear later than other types of teeth. Apparently that is a reference to the fact that younger people are supposed to gain their wisdom later in life, as they approach adulthood, after living long enough to start really learning from their experiences.

Anthropologists tell us that wisdom teeth are the third group of molars to appear – following baby teeth molars and then adult molars. They explain that long ago early humans ate a much different and more course and crude diet. They believe that people used to eat such things, for example, as leaves, roots, and fibrous plants. Although we may find it hard to imagine eating that kind of food nowadays without at least processing it or cooking it for a long time to soften it, early humans were not so advanced in the cultivation and preparation of foods.

To grind, crush, and eat that kind of rough food they needed additional help from big strong wisdom teeth molars – just as animals today that eat that kind of tough, hard to digest foods have bigger molars and more of them. Anthropologists also say that as humans evolve our jaws become smaller because we have less need for an extended row of teeth. With a smaller jaw comes less room, and that is another reason why wisdom teeth seem to have no place saved for them in the modern mouth.

Typically baby teeth come and go and then around age 12 the adult molars emerge. Meanwhile wisdom teeth are developing beneath the surface of the gums, usually beneath the back molars, and several years later they will normally start to show up – usually crowding permanent teeth already in place. Of course some people do not ever get their wisdom teeth, but those that do may get one, two, three, or four, and in rare cases people have even gotten more than four wisdom teeth.

Since wisdom teeth are pretty much obsolete and since they make problems by not having reserved space in our mouths, they usually have to be removed by a dentist once they start to push forward. In that case the dentist will cut open the gum enough to get into the wisdom tooth area with small tools and then pulverizes the teeth and removes the pieces. Or they can wait until the wisdom tooth emerges and then extract it the same they might pull any other tooth. But regardless of how they are extracted the dentist will provide care and medicines to counteract infection, speed the healing process, and minimize the pain and discomfort of the patient.

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