Somewhere along the line, genetic mutations have changed the number
of wisdom teeth we have. Some patients have all four, some have three, and others have none. About 10 to 25 percent of Americans with European ancestry are missing at least one third molar, according to Alan Mann, researcher from Princeton University. Those with African and Asian descents are even higher, capping out at about 40 percent. If you’re over the age of twenty-five and consider yourself lucky enough to have never grown wisdom teeth, know that the danger isn’t over. At the age of 94, Robert Gray, the Guinness Book of World record holder for latest wisdom teeth eruption, surprised his dentist by reporting pain in the back of his mouth. You could be next.
Before agriculture and animal domestication was really a thing, we had to scavenge and chomp down on some pretty serious material. Wisdom teeth really came in handy for this sort of thing. But those days are behind us (hopefully), and now instead of raw nuts or vegetables, we can enjoy a kale smoothie. Also there’s the consideration that we no longer have the space in our mouths for third molars, because, quite literally, our brains have grown in size. Changes in jaw configuration related to speech also contribute to shrinking jaws. Plus, our jaws don’t develop as much now that we chew softer foods. This not only means there isn’t room for Wisdom teeth, it can also impact our facial appearance.
But while we might think that impacted wisdom teeth are a new problem, they’re not. In fact, the oldest recorded case of an impacted wisdom tooth is perhaps 15,000 years old!
The English language description of third molars as wisdom teeth holds in some languages, but many other languages come up with their own names for these teeth. Turkish has a very descriptive name yas disi, which means “twentieth-year tooth.” Thai uses an equally descriptive, but more interesting fan-khut, which means “huddling tooth” because they have so little room. Some are even more poetic, like the Japanese oyashirazu “unknown to parents,” because they typically emerge after children move out of their parents’ home. But our favorite is probably sa-rang-nee which means “love teeth,” because they appear at the age when many people experience the first pangs of love.
Wisdom teeth aren’t completely worthless. In fact, there are several important research projects that use them to test the regenerative properties of stem cells. According to a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, stem cells that have been extracted from wisdom teeth were used to repair internal scarring and damage caused by disease and infection in mice.
Many dentists will offer wisdom tooth extraction, but not all dentists approach the procedure in the same way. At StarImage dentistry, our dentists have at their disposal the most recent dental technologies. These advanced tools can help us achieve better results with a smoother procedure for wisdom teeth extraction, dental implants, and more. But of course, even the best technology is just a tool, and it’s the training and experience of our dentists that truly set them apart.
If you are in Wichita Falls, TX or surrounding areas and looking for a dentist to protect the health and beauty of your smile, please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry.