What are Wisdom Teeth?
Dr. James Babiuk, Joliet Oral Surgeon and the WisdomToothDoc™ Offers His Insights
In technical terms, wisdom teeth are the third set of molar teeth. They are large, flat, chewing teeth that typically develop in the very back corners of each jaw. In the average person, they start developing at some point between the ages of eight and 11 and continue to develop over a period of about five to six years.
The development of a wisdom tooth starts within the jawbone and begins in the same way as all other teeth… as a protein scaffolding with an outer layer that becomes calcified, which means that calcium is laid over the top of the scaffold. As the root starts to form, it pushes the tooth into place in the mouth. Ideally, there will be enough room in the mouth to allow for this process (commonly referred to as wisdom tooth eruption) to occur unimpeded. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people simply don’t have enough room in their mouths for their wisdom teeth eruption, which is why problems arise.
Today, Wisdom Teeth Problems Are Common.
There are no exact stats in medical literature that state the percentage of people who encounter problems with their wisdom teeth. But as a Joliet oral surgeon who has practiced for many years, my experience shows that 10% of people have enough room for their wisdom teeth to grow into the mouth without problems, be fully functional and be cleansable.
It is almost unheard of for someone to keep their wisdom teeth for their entire life.
Why? In the past, the majority of people grew their own food. They would then grind their own wheat and corn and eat vegetables from their own gardens. Because of this, there were literally rocks and sand in the food that they ate!
Their overall diets were much more abrasive than the standard diet today and wore down the enamel on their teeth. As the enamel wore down, more space was created between teeth, causing the teeth to slowly drift forward. This would leave space in the back of the mouth, which would allow for the unimpeded growth of wisdom teeth.
With modern food science and agriculture, fewer people grow their own food, and significantly more people are essentially eating “pre-ground” food with a consistency no coarser than baby power.
Due to the highly processed, nonabrasive food that we eat today, our teeth don’t wear down nearly as much as our ancestors’ teeth did. This means that the space for wisdom tooth growth has been eliminated.
In fact, archeologists have found that the shape and size of human jaws has decreased in the past 6,000 years. The decrease in chewing force needed with the evolution of humans led to a decrease in jaw size.
When wisdom teeth erupt, there just isn’t room in the mouth for 32 teeth, only 28. This is why many people make appointments at their local Joliet, oral surgeon! I’ll be discussing why it’s essential to remove wisdom teeth in a future blog. In the meantime, feel free to contact my office for more information.