Understanding Wisdom Teeth And Why They Are Removed

2 August 2017
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


If you have recently had a general check up with your dental professional and have learned that you need to have your wisdom teeth pulled out, then you may be wondering exactly why these teeth are removed in the vast majority of cases. After all, if they are a normal part of the growing process, then it seems odd that the teeth would need to be extracted. If this is confusing to you, then keep reading to learn a bit more about the wisdom teeth.

They Are Vestigial Structures 

If you know a bit about biology, then you may know that humans have certain parts that are not exactly useful. The appendix is one of these parts and it often causes serious infections in the body. The tailbone is another one, and these parts of the body are called vestigial structures. The term refers to a leftover pieces of the body that no longer retain their original function. They are not needed any longer due to evolution and have become fairly useless. Some vestigial structures exist but do not cause any harm. Others, like your wisdom teeth, cause issues.

The wisdom teeth are the third molars that come in when you reach your late teens. The teeth were used as the third set of teeth to help with food grinding. Our ancestors had larger heads and bigger jaws that allowed for the correct position of the wisdom teeth. Over time, our jaws have shrunk and there is very little space for the wisdom teeth any longer. 

Since the teeth force their way into the mouth, even though the jaw can no longer accommodate the teeth, they are often removed soon after they emerge. This can help to reduce issues like crowding and force against the other teeth. Of course, the force placed on the molars and other teeth and the small amount of room in the mouth can lead to situations where the teeth are compacted or caught underneath the second molars. Wisdom teeth are then removed to eradicate the pain and pressure associated with the problem.

They Can Cause Problems Later On

While some individuals still have jaws that are large enough to handle the third molars, the teeth can cause some serious issues later on in life. The teeth can become infected and decayed like the rest of the teeth. Since the teeth are problematic, there are often removed completely if they show signs of decay. If they are released before an issue arises, then this can save you the grief of dealing with a painful infection issue.

Also, since the teeth are quite far in the back of the mouth, they are difficult to clean. This can create a gum disease or decay issue that can spread to the nearby teeth. Also, food can get caught in the crevices that sit between the second and third molars. Since it is difficult to use floss in the back of the mouth, the second molars can develop cavities and may require substantial treatment. 

Since the first and second molars are essential teeth and oral health can be compromised simply due to the presence of the wisdom teeth, they are often removed. 

Even if issues do not arise with decay, the third molars can place a great deal of stress on the jaw and the way it opens and closes. You can develop TMJ or a jaw clicking and tightness issue. 

If you have concerns about wisdom tooth removal and why it is completed, make sure to speak with your general dentist or oral surgeon about the procedure in advance.