Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Question: Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
The dreaded wisdom teeth. Why on earth were we given teeth that, in most cases, just end up being pulled anyway?
Many people have asked me "Why do we have wisdom teeth?" Considering the fact that I personally had nothing to do with the creation of mankind, I had to do some digging to find out why we were given wisdom teeth, and why most of us need to have our wisdom teeth extracted.
A Wise Tooth... Thousands of Years Ago
Our earliest ancestors survived on a diet of raw meat, nuts, roots, berries and leaves. Cro-Magnon man didn't have the luxury of using knives to cut and prepare his food, and cooking his meat wasn't even thought of then. Chewing these tough, coarse, and rugged foods required a broader jaw, and strong molars -- including the wisdom teeth. Having all three molars was vital, in order for our ancestors to be able to eat the foods necessary for survival. The larger jaw, common in our ancestors, easily accommodated the wisdom teeth, which allowed them to erupt into the mouth normally.
Fast-forward to today, and take a look at what we are eating and more importantly how we are preparing our food. We cut, dice, chop, and boil, steam, and bake almost everything we eat. All of that food preparation has made eating a pretty easy feat to accomplish, in fact experts believe that our jaw line has become less broad and smaller over the years due to how food is prepared and consumed; hence the reason why our wisdom teeth need to be extracted.
The third molars, known simply as your wisdom teeth, are the last permanent teeth to erupt into your mouth some time between the ages of 17 and 21 years old. It is thought that the third molars were given the name "wisdom teeth" because they erupt at a time when a child becomes wiser -- as they enter adulthood.
The average person will develop four wisdom teeth, but that's not always the case for others. Many people develop supernumerary (extra) wisdom teeth or, if you're lucky, others fail to develop some or all of their wisdom teeth altogether.
The average mouth will only comfortably hold 28 of the 32 teeth we are predisposed to have. Since the wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt, there is often little room left to accommodate their size and anatomy, which often causes the wisdom teeth to either:
· Become impacted under the gum tissue and bone
· Partially erupt into the mouth, resulting in only part of the tooth exposed above the gumline
· Fully erupt into the mouth in an undesirable position -- usually tilting forward, pushing on the tooth in front of it.
It is quite possible that each one of your wisdom teeth will erupt differently from one another, for example you could have only one impacted wisdom tooth, and the rest could fully erupt.
During your regular dental check-up, your dentist may take a orthopantomogram x-ray, also known as a panorex, to diagnose whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed.
This x-ray gives the dentist a clear view of the area around the wisdom teeth, to determine the type of extraction necessary for each wisdom tooth. When the dentist discovers a reason for you to have your wisdom teeth removed he will access the position of the wisdom teeth and how each root is formed. Depending on his findings, your dentist will make the decision to preform the wisdom teeth extractions for you, or refer you to see an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon for your wisdom teeth extractions.
Choosing the right foods in your diet is an important aspect in having healthy teeth and good oral hygiene. Establishing good nutritional habits in kids and teenagers can be especially beneficial for good eating patterns and food choices throughout their lives.
How Nutrition affects oral health
The foods that you eat come in contact with the germs and bacteria that live in the mouth. If you don’t brush, plaque will accumulate on the teeth. Plague thrives on the starches and sugars that are found in a great deal of foods. When plaque combines with the sugars and starches, an acid is produced that attacks enamel on the teeth, and eventually causes decay. According to the American Dental Association, the acid attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more.
Choosing a Healthy Diet
Choosing a healthy diet may sound easy, however, fruits, milk, cereals, bread and some vegetables contain sugars and / or starches. Carbonated sodas, sweet fruit drinks and sugary snack foods should be limited.
You don’t have to avoid these foods, just keep in mind that you should eat a balanced diet, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily.