As the only teeth in your mouth to become known by a clever nickname, wisdom teeth are truly unique. From their location and late eruption, to their unpredictability and the variety of issues they can cause, wisdom teeth garner more attention than all the others combined. These 5 facts will give you a new perspective on the infamous wisdom teeth, and what you can expect if you still have them.
Wisdom Teeth Cause a Variety of Problems
The most well-known fact about the wisdom teeth is that their removal is usually recommended by dentists, but the reasons often go unknown. In most peoples’ mouths, wisdom teeth are not given the space they need to grow and function as normal teeth. This insufficient space and unpredictable growing pattern lead to a variety of problems caused by wisdom teeth. If not removed early, here are some of the problems that create a need to remove the wisdom teeth:
- Cysts: Fluid-filled Sacs
- Infected Soft Tissue Behind the Teeth
- Trauma to Nearby Teeth
- Tooth Decay and Cavities
- Gum Disease
If you’re one of the few people whose wisdom teeth had ample room to grow and a functional, symmetrical bite, then you may get to keep yours. For most of the population, removal of the wisdom teeth is recommended, simply because of the trouble they’re likely to cause.
Wisdom Teeth Can Erupt Horizontally
Another reason why the wisdom teeth have earned a remarkably bad reputation among dentists is because of their chaotic growing habits. Not only do wisdom teeth often grow in crooked, but it’s even possible for them to erupt into the mouth sideways. If that sounds horrific, it’s but one of the various problems wisdom teeth can cause, simply from the unpredictable way they erupt into the mouth.
Impacted Teeth: A Painful Problem
In addition to growing in sideways, wisdom teeth can also fail to emerge altogether. In these cases, the wisdom teeth remain hidden beneath the gums. Wisdom teeth in this situation are known as impacted, and impacted wisdom teeth are responsible for a series of problems all their own. The Mayo Clinic explains how impacted wisdom teeth can cause an infection or cyst that can spread the damage to surrounding teeth. With unpredictable growing habits and a slew of potential problems, it’s no wonder why dentists recommend the removal of wisdom teeth at the earliest possible opportunity.
35% of People Never Get Wisdom Teeth
Another interesting fact regarding wisdom teeth is that they may not even come in at all. About 35% of the population will not have wisdom teeth grow into their mouths. Researchers are divided on why it is that some people are privy to wisdom teeth, and others never see them come in. These two leading theories offer explanations on why some people get wisdom teeth, and others don’t.
Theory 1: Evolution
The wisdom teeth are no longer required for humans and have therefore ceased growing in many of them. Much like the appendix which served a function for our ancestors but is widely-considered useless in present times, there is no longer an evolutionary need to grow wisdom teeth. While we used to use them for chewing rough foods, our current diets no longer require that degree of power. Due to this change in dietary needs, many experts attribute evolution as the reason why 35% of people can no longer grow wisdom teeth.
Theory 2: Differences in Culture
A second theory held by researchers that attempt to explain why 35% of people no longer grow wisdom teeth involves differences in culture. These experts claim that the reason why some don’t grow wisdom teeth anymore pertains to the jaw use of different people. Entire cultures who do not grow wisdom teeth, such as those in East Asia, provide some truth to the idea that culture might impact the emergence of wisdom teeth.
Wisdom Teeth Contain Stem Cells
One recently discovered trait of wisdom teeth can be of use to people years after having them removed. In 2008, Japanese researchers found that it’s possible to harvest pluripotent stem cells from wisdom teeth. The effects of this are potentially life-saving since those stem cells can be used decades in the future for multiple regenerative purposes. Some of the common ways that stem cells are used today include:
- Regrowing cells and tissues
- Curing blindness
- Testing drugs and treatments
- Replacement limbs
- Regrowing bodily organs
- Treating diseases like diabetes
- Treating Severe injuries like spinal cord injuries
If you see the value in preserving your stem cells, then keeping your wisdom teeth is among the easiest and least expensive ways to conserve them. Preserving stem cells can be a priceless decision if you end up needing them years down the line. If you’re interested in keeping your wisdom teeth so you can use their stem cells in the future if need be, contact the experts at Dentistry of Nashville for more info.
Wisdom Teeth are Removed More Frequently Than Other Teeth
Of the 32 teeth in a human’s mouth, wisdom teeth are the most often removed. This is mostly in expectation of the problems they may cause but is also attributed to removals required after the damage is done. Part of the credit can be given to good dental practices, which mandate that dentists pay extra attention to the wisdom teeth and remove them before they pose a significant threat to the rest of the teeth.
The Magdalenian Girl
Whatever the reason, the removal of wisdom teeth transcends location, culture and even time. The Magdalenian Girl is a skeleton known to be at least 13,000 years of age. In the early 1900’s, the skeleton was unearthed in good form, allowing for experts to conduct research and x-rays. One thing exposed by those x-rays is that the Magdalenian Girl had impacted wisdom teeth that had not erupted from her gums yet. This finding suggests that the human diet may have already changed from rough roots and plants to a softer diet similar to what we have now in 2017. Ultimately, the discovery of the Magdalenian Girl provided priceless research in the fields of anthropology, history, and dentistry.
Call the Dentistry of Nashville with your Wisdom Teeth Questions
Need to set up an appointment to have your wisdom teeth extracted? Let our dental professionals examine your wisdom teeth, and figure out the optimal solution for your dental care. We will be able to tell you if you’re one of the few who has healthy, functional wisdom teeth, or if you’re among the many which will need them removed. For inquiries on our many dental services, contact Dentistry of Nashville and let Drs. Elam, Vaughn, and Fleming handle your dental concerns.