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What's The Point of Wisdom Teeth Anyway

The Evolution of Wisdom Teeth

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With such a grand sounding name you'd think that wisdom teeth served a grand purpose in the scheme of things related to your oral health. And, once upon a time, it's believed they certainly did. These days, however, for many people, they are nothing more than a big pain, literally.


What are Wisdom Teeth Anyway?

Although you may not have ever actually seen yours very clearly, everyone has two sets of wisdom teeth, one at the top, one at the bottom, at the very back of your mouth, behind the molars. These teeth often appear last, sometimes when a person is in their teens, occasionally not until some time later.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Exist?

Wisdom teeth were once something of a puzzle to dentists and other medical professionals. It's now generally agreed however that they are evolutionary throwbacks that no longer serve the purpose they were designed for.

You see, back when prehistoric man - and woman - roamed the Earth their primary diet was, obviously, very different to ours. Lacking a cave-based Woolworths to food shop in they ate a lot of pretty tough, chewy stuff, including sticks and reed plants. This usually led to teeth falling out and wearing down, so wisdom teeth could move in as replacements.

As we all know eat much softer foods, and (should) practice much better oral hygiene wisdom teeth no longer have a purpose. The human mouth is designed to accommodate 28 teeth, so if the wisdom teeth come in, that goes up to 32 and then there's a problem, often a rather painful one.

 Partially impacted wisdom teeth.

Partially impacted wisdom teeth.

Wisdom Tooth Eruption Problems

As there is no room for them to exist, it is not very common for a wisdom tooth to erupt nice and straight and then slide in without a problem. Instead, they usually impact, or partially impact, in the gum. There are four common types of wisdom tooth eruption (or lack of) and they break down as follows:

  • Angular - The wisdom tooth impacts into the gum, behind the molar, at an angle.
  • Vertical - The wisdom tooth is still straight, but it simply sits in the gum.
  • Partial Eruption - The tooth partially erupts from the gum and can be seen with the naked eye if you look hard enough.
  • Horizontal - The tooth 'falls over' and impacts sideways against the adjoining molar.
 Regular checkups will ensure you don't end up with a surprise visit to the dentist with a troublesome wisdom tooth.

Regular checkups will ensure you don't end up with a surprise visit to the dentist with a troublesome wisdom tooth.

Wisdom Tooth Problems and What to Do About Them

In any of the scenarios mentioned above the potential for painful problems exists at all times, but sadly it's often at the most inconvenient times that they really become a nuisance. Signs that you probably need to see a dentist about a wisdom tooth can include all the following:

  • Pain, often centered at the back of the mouth
  • Swelling in the gum
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Redness

As an impacted wisdom tooth can cause all kinds of problems, including nasty infections, the usual course of action when one does begin to cause problems is to remove it asap. If the tooth has erupted it is an easier procedure than if it has become impacted but either way, in the hands of good dentist wisdom tooth removal is not anywhere near as bad as some might have you believe, and living with a wisdom tooth gone bad can be much, much worse.


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Did you know that these days it's often better to take a proactive, rather than a reactive approach to wisdom tooth problems? Discussing wisdom tooth extraction as a preventative measure, and then getting on with having it done now, can save you, and the rest of your teeth, a lot of pain and hassle later.

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