Contrary to popular belief, age does not always bring wisdom. Nor does it necessarily bring wisdom teeth. In fact, according to a study, the number of people born without wisdom teeth could be up to 35%.
So if you fall within this percentage, does that mean there is something wrong with your teeth (or you’re lacking in wisdom)? Before we answer this question, let’s define our terms.
What are wisdom teeth?
In clinical terms, wisdom teeth are your third molars (the large, flat teeth at the back of your mouth). We usually have four of them, one at the back of each quarter of the mouth, sometimes however, either some or all of them fail to develop. They get their name from the time they come in, usually between the ages of 17 and 25, when youth are actively seeking knowledge and wisdom through education or experience, or both.
People born without wisdom teeth
As we said, up to 35% of people are born without wisdom teeth. The study we referred to earlier concluded that the absence of wisdom teeth is a result of evolution. As the human brain has expanded over hundreds of thousands of years and continues to do so, it is taking up increasing space in the skull. In order to make room for it, the jaw is shrinking, and the third molars are slowly disappearing. In the not so distant future, they’ll be the exception not the rule.
Is a lack of wisdom teeth a problem?
If you don’t have wisdom teeth, there’s no need to worry. The reason evolution chose to shrink our jaws rather than expand our skulls is a simple matter of redundancy. As humans have developed their brain power, society and technology, including food preparation technology, have also developed. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the third molar was a useful tool for tearing and grinding unprocessed and even raw foods. As food production and preparation became more refined, the need for this powerful grinding tool lessened. Now we do with a knife and fork what our distant forefathers did with their teeth. As a result, the space previously taken up by wisdom teeth in the jaw is slowly being rededicated to the brain.
So not having wisdom teeth is not just not a problem, it could be a blessing. It means you can claim to be more highly evolved than those who have them but more importantly, it also means that you don’t have to worry about an array of problems such as impacted wisdom teeth. This is where the wisdom teeth try to grow but don’t have enough room, leading to them come out at an angle or in the wrong place. This is both a very painful condition and one that’s hard to fix. Wisdom teeth are also hard to clean properly because of their location, and so can easily start to decay and could even affect adjacent teeth.
Should I have my wisdom teeth removed?
Unless your dentist gives you a good clinical reason to do so, the answer is no, definitely not. It is a very painful procedure with significant recovery time, and will bring you no benefits whatsoever. Good clinical reasons for removing wisdom teeth are;
- unrestorable decay in the wisdom tooth,
- non-treatable nerve damage,
- abscess and jaw infections,
- damage to the wisdom tooth or adjacent teeth.
As with all your other teeth, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Just make sure you keep all your teeth clean and healthy and they’ll serve you well for years, whether you have third molars or not.