Like many teenagers my age, I am planning to have my wisdom teeth removed. Although my dentist assured me that I didn’t have to have it done immediately, he recommended sooner rather than later. Of course I put it off, until a later break, instead of ruining a few days of my precious summer. This, and countless entertaining videos of friends and strangers delirious under the influence of pain meds, got me thinking about why we have these seemingly useless teeth. Why do we need our wisdom teeth removed? Can we live without having them removed? WHEN the heck did people even start having their wisdom teeth removed? I did some research to settle the score.
Unsurprisingly, the reason we have wisdom teeth derives from an age of earlier human existence. According to Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, wisdom teeth allowed earlier humans to eat a diet of “tough, uncooked foods that wore away their teeth.” Smithsonian online
Essentially, wisdom teeth were a pair of backups to replace worn or broken teeth. In an article posted on scienline.org, the reason humans today no longer need wisdom teeth are touched upon by author Rachele Cooper. Cooper explains that the diet of people today renders wisdom teeth useless. Taking it a step further, Cooper explains, “evolutionary biologists now classify wisdom teeth as vestigial organs, or body parts that have become functionless due to evolution.” science.org
This brings me back my question of if people NEED to have their wisdom teeth removed. Is it all just a scam by dentists? As it turns out webmd does not only convince you you’re dying. Although webmd.com states that 60% of wisdom teeth removal procedures are not necessary, the site continues on to outline dangers of not having your wisdom teeth removed.
“The teeth could be stuck, or impacted. That means they can’t break through your jaw and into your mouth. Maybe your mouth is too small to make room for them, or the teeth could be growing at an angle to other teeth. They can damage the tooth next door if they push up against it.” WEBMD
Discovering when people first began removing wisdom teeth was a little tricky. Wikipedia states that the first known wisdom teeth removal happened around 18,000-10,000 BC. The procedure was performed on a woman in Europe. Wikipedia also explains that not removing wisdom teeth can lead to periodontal disease and cavities. wikipedia
After all of this, I would personally recommend listening to your dentist. Is periodontal disease really worth it? Leaving your wisdom teeth in your jaw can lead to discomfort and unnecessary pain. If I could improve this research I would consider confounding variables that could impact how wisdom teeth grow in a person’s jaw and the seriousness of various cases.