Unless You’re the Geico Caveman, You Don’t Need Your Wisdom Teeth
Talk about false advertising — wisdom teeth are anything but smart. Some people think they can let them erupt and come down and join their other permanent teeth. But the reality is that wisdom teeth can cause all sorts of dental issues and most people need to have them removed.
At Montefiore Medical Center, we like our patients to be in the know about our procedures. So, here’s some more information about wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth — what are they?
Anthropologists classify wisdom teeth as vestigial organs — body parts that have become functionless due to evolution. Yes, they are a remnant of our past when we were getting chased around by wooly mammoths. Our diets back then consisted of leaves, nuts, roots, and very tough meats. This pre-Fig Newton diet required greater chewing power and caused greater tooth wear. Plus, long before Bobby Flay told you what to eat our jaws were longer than they are now.
The result? Our third set of molars, cleverly known as wisdom teeth, are no longer needed. But they don’t know that so they still come in. The first molars usually erupt around age six, the second around age 12. The wisdom teeth begin forming around age 10, but don’t erupt until between the ages of 17 and 25, when we are, in theory, wiser.
Two sets of molars is a party, three’s a crowd
OK, so now these unwanted molars are trying to barge into your mouth. Usually they are impacted, or blocked, by the other teeth (remember our jaws are now much shorter than our old caveman days). They come in sideways. They come in surrounded by jawbone. They sometimes partially erupt, leading to pockets in the gums where bacteria love to go. In general, these things are no good and need to be removed.
Get them out!
With very few exceptions, wisdom teeth won’t play well with the other teeth in your mouth and they will need to be extracted. It’s best to do this when the patient is between 15 and 18 because wisdom tooth roots are only two-thirds formed at that time. The later you wait, the harder it is to extract them and the more problems they can cause.
There, now you know all about wisdom teeth. At Montefiore Medical Center, we’re experts at removing these ancient relics of our caveman past, so when it’s time, call 888-700-6623 and make your appointment.