Wisdom teeth got their name because of how late they appear in life, generally erupting between the ages of 17 and 25. These teeth don’t necessarily play by the rules, however. The earliest recorded wisdom tooth eruption happened to Matthew Adams, who got his wisdom teeth at nine years old, which is not a particularly “wise” age. Scientist and dentist know wisdom teeth instead as “third molars,” and have been fascinated with them for some time. Probably because they’re pretty weird.

Most experience the eruption of wisdom teeth as a painful milestone in coming of age. First, the back of your mouths start to hurt, and then the next thing you know, you’re staying home from work or school with an ice pack to your cheek. While it’s not necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed if they come in correctly positioned in your mouth, or do not cause any pain.  Nearly 85 percent of patients end up getting them removed to avoid overcrowding of teeth. If you’re wisdom teeth have come in and need to be removed, take solace in the fact that your aren’t alone.
animated tooth being inspected by a magnifying glass

Never Got Your Wisdom Teeth?

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.

Are Wisdom Teeth Even Needed?

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!

They Have Poetic Names in Other Countries

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 Are Helpful in Research

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.

Your Dentist Makes a Difference

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 looking for a Wichita Falls dentist to protect the health and beauty of your smile, please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry.