Why Are Some of Us Born Without Wisdom Teeth?
They say with age comes wisdom. However, does that guarantee wisdom teeth as well?
Wisdom teeth erupt differently for different people. While for some it comes partially erupted, others are born without wisdom teeth. If this happens to you, should you be worried? Is it possible to not have wisdom teeth, and does it mean that something is wrong with your oral health?
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are known in clinical and dental terms as the third set of molars. On average, humans have four wisdom teeth, few individuals only develop one or two wisdom teeth, however, in certain cases they may never develop, and sometimes they are missing.
They are the last teeth to erupt, and they come through at the back of the mouth, behind the last standing teeth. These teeth were named for the time at which they make their appearance at the very back of the mouth, which is usually between the ages of 17 and 25 when a young person might be pursuing wisdom with higher education.
Why do some people not have wisdom teeth?
Not everyone has wisdom teeth. A study shows that up to 35% of people have missing wisdom teeth. There are two main reasons why some individuals have no wisdom teeth:
- They are present but still haven’t erupted yet. Wisdom teeth may never erupt if they are impacted (not enough space for them to grow) and may remain dormant in the jawbone for many years.
- The lack of wisdom teeth is related to genes. A study carried out at Princeton University shows evolution has a large role to play in the absence of wisdom teeth. The study shows that the expanding brain size over hundreds and thousands of years meant that the head was no longer large enough to accommodate a larger brain and an extra set of teeth.
Therefore, a gradual shift in jaw engineering doesn’t allow a third molar to form correctly as they are no longer needed because we mainly rely on our first and second molars to do the chewing, so the lack of the third set won’t prevent you from eating without difficulty.
Another study carried out by the University of Pennsylvania discovered a chromosomal mutation called MYH16. This mutation is explained as an evolutionary trait that has allowed modern humans to grow larger brains and also means humans have less need of and room for wisdom teeth.
Opponents of evolution place greater weight on the dietary shift that has occurred in humans and dental hygiene in lessening our reliance on wisdom teeth, discounting the role of our evolving jaws and brains. However, with a simple comparison of ancient bones placing a prehistoric jaw and a modern jaw next to each other, the space is visibly smaller.
Should people be worried if they don’t have wisdom teeth?
Not at all. The lack of wisdom teeth is common these days and in fact, they are the most commonly missing teeth in the mouth. You may find that either one of your parents or both or even your grandparents may have been missing these teeth. The lack of wisdom teeth does not hinder our efficiency in chewing and in fact, it is a blessing as this means you are less likely to have problems that need further treatment.
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are frequently referred to as being impacted. This means that there is either not enough space for them to grow into the jaw in a normal position or they erupt at an angle or in an unexpected location. This poor positioning can cause pain and infection (called pericoronitis) and even if the teeth happen to come in correctly, without any problems, there is potential for future problems.
A wisdom tooth is difficult to clean, so it could become decayed over time and even affect adjacent teeth. There's also a study that attributes crowding of the teeth to wisdom teeth however this is cause for heated debate in the dental world and there is evidence to prove otherwise.
Should people have their wisdom teeth extracted?
The NICE guidelines in the UK state that wisdom teeth should only be removed if pathology is observed. Pathology includes unrestorable decay in the wisdom tooth, non-treatable nerve damage, cellulitis, abscess, and jaw infections as well as damage to the wisdom tooth or adjacent teeth. The guidelines also state that they can be removed if pain arises owing to the impaction of the wisdom tooth. The guidelines are clear however that the wisdom teeth should not be removed if there is no good clinical reason to do so.
If they are causing issues and impacting the surrounding teeth, it is best to have the affected teeth removed by a dental specialist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon. After the oral surgery, there are a few guidelines you need to follow, including eating softer foods, taking pain relievers, and making sure to get some rest.
One also needs to ensure a clot is formed over the extraction site. Post an extraction, your dentist will give you a piece of gauze to bite on. Try to bite down and keep it in place at the site for at least an hour afterward. There’s a looming danger of dry socket formation if you fail to follow the oral surgeon's instructions.
Concerned about your wisdom teeth? Enquire today.