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Why Wisdom Tooth Issues Exist

Child being shown how to grind food

Evolutionary Fallout

The activity centre in the image teaches children about our historic diet, useful knowledge but no longer part of life for most of us.

How many molars we grow is in most populations, not critical. Our wisdom teeth were more essential when they helped our ancestors make plant tissue edible, grinding away the cellulose we couldn’t digest.

Other, often uncooked foods may have required similar treatment. The appearance of agricultural settlements and more cooked food reduced the need for chewing, a position which accelerated.

Modern times have seen a significant increase in the proportion of soft, processed foods we eat. Our jaw size has reduced over time but a genetic tendency to produce the extra molars remains.

The correlation is well researched, aboriginal populations who kept to a traditional diet for longer have fewer wisdom teeth problems, Central American and Celtic populations see far more and tend to have a smaller jaw size.

Neither did the change take much time. Bone analysis from the beginning of the industrial revolution to the present has identified a tenfold increase in impacted wisdom teeth, with the symptoms they bring all too common.

Secondary Outcomes

We know why wisdom tooth issues exist, essentially lack of space within our jaw for them for them to develop as intended, or to sit comfortably.

This can leave a tooth stuck under the gum, or trying to force through at an incorrect angle, conditions known as impacted development.

They can cause damage to nerves in the jaw, or unsuitable tissue growth. Oral hygiene becomes more difficult, the fact that wisdom teeth are in general harder to keep clean leads to secondary problems.

Infection of the gum near the wisdom tooth is quite common, called pericoronitis. More standard gum infection (periodontal disease) is a further possibility, which can transfer to surrounding areas.

Pain and sweeling around wisdom teeth is not unusual, in rarer cases, cysts can form. Tooth decay, or abscesses can follow. The key point is that wisdom tooth symptoms are not confined to the tooth itself.

Lack Of Treatment

Difficulties caused by wisdom teeth can be immediate, or begin years later. A prime reason they continue, or lead to further oral disease, or decay, is a resistance to seeking professional care.

Research suggests that around 75% of all symptoms could be avoided by prompt treatment. In a number of cases, this will be simply because care is unavailable but denial and avoidance are factors.

Both are understandable, none of us wake up hoping to find a reason for dental treatment. The fact remains that not seeking treatment is a route to needing more and well managed care is a reasonably pleasant solution.

If wisdom tooth removal is the answer, in specialist hands you will feel no pain and risks are minimised. You and your maxillofacial consultant work together, to correct a problem which is essentially an evolutionary blip.

Should you have any concerns on what treatment involves, by all means contact our knowledgeable staff, who will be pleased to offer advice.