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Why Are They Called “Wisdom Teeth?” Oral Surgeon Answers

April 15, 2018

Filed under: Other Topics — Dr. Steve Koo @ 11:58 am

close-up of attractive womanThe field of dentistry is full of interesting tidbits, like how it developed in the first place (look it up sometime — it has to do with barbershops!). Another fun fact is how “wisdom teeth” got their name, and why we still have these third molars even if most of the time they need to be removed. Your oral surgeon in Houston is well-versed in the story behind wisdom teeth, and it’s coming up next!

Wisdom Teeth for Wise (?) People

Humans are blessed with two sets of teeth: the primary, which come in during the first few years of life, and the permanent (or secondary) teeth which begin to erupt around age 6 or 7 and continue until age 14 or so. The wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that may come in at the very back of your mouth well after you thought you were finished getting your permanent teeth. They often appear between the ages of 17 and 25 or so, or the time when people are typically thought to have gained “wisdom.” These days, most high school senior teachers might disagree with that… but the name has stuck around for this extra set of teeth.

Why We Have Wisdom Teeth

The next common question is why we actually have wisdom teeth if they usually need to be extracted, anyway. It’s a good point — the majority of these molars will need to go, as they are at a high risk of getting trapped beneath the gum line, which we also call impaction. Impacted molars are likely to become infected, causing pain and putting your overall health at-risk in case the infection spreads. Bodies are smart, so why do we keep growing these not-so-wise molars? The answer, it turns out, has to do with evolution.

Human beings once needed an extra set of teeth, in the days when diets consisted of rough roots, vegetables, and raw meats. Oral hygiene wasn’t really a “thing” back then, either, meaning the chances that several teeth would be lost by the early 20s were high. An extra set really came in handy back in the day.

Unfortunately for the wisdom teeth, these days our diets are softer and we know how to use a toothbrush and floss to fight decay and tooth loss. That means there is rarely enough room for the wisdom teeth to erupt without issue. When issues like discomfort, a foul smell, and shifting teeth start to become apparent, your Houston oral surgeon will likely recommend extraction. This procedure is so common that the majority of people in their 30s have had it.

If you are dealing with infected or impacted wisdom teeth, don’t delay in seeking extraction! There’s no reason to get sentimental about these third molars — your Houston oral surgeons can put together a treatment plan to bid them adieu so you can get out of pain and on with your life.

Meet the Practice

The Piney Point Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery team is made up of oral surgeons Houston trusts for wisdom tooth extraction and more. To learn more about this common procedure or to schedule a consultation for something else, you are invited to contact the office at 713-783-5560 today.

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