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  • Each year, five million Americans get their wisdom teeth removed, which costs about three billion dollars in total medical costs.

  • But for many, it's worth it. Since leaving them in can cause serious problems like gum infection, tooth decay, and even tumors.

  • But wisdom teeth weren't always the unwelcome threat we see today.

  • Wisdom teeth have been around for millennia.

  • Our ancient ancestors used them the same way we use our other eight molars:

  • to grind up food, which was especially handy before the advent of cooking around seven thousand years ago,

  • back when our diet consisted of raw meat and plants that were fibrous and tough to chew.

  • But once we got our hands on softer cooked foods, our powerful jaws no longer needed to work as hard and shrank as a result.

  • But here's the problem:

  • The genes that determine the size of our jaws are completely separate from the genes that determine how many teeth we grow.

  • So as our jaws shrank, we still kept all 32 teeth.

  • And it eventually got to the point where there wasn't enough space to fit all of the teeth.

  • But why did wisdom teeth specifically get the boot?

  • Well, they're the last to show up to the party.

  • Wisdom teeth don't usually grow in until you're between 16 and 18 years old.

  • And by that time, chances are your other 28 teeth have taken up all the available space in your mouth.

  • In that case, instead of growing in like a normal tooth, wisdom teeth get trapped or impacted in your jaw,

  • which often makes them grow in at odd angles and press against your back molars causing pain and swelling.

  • It also forms a narrow crevice between the teeth creating the perfect food trap.

  • This makes the tooth difficult to clean which attracts more bacteria and can cause infection and tooth decay, eventually leading to gum disease if left untreated.

  • But it gets worse.

  • Tooth decay can eventually destroy your wisdom tooth.

  • So, to save you and your teeth from such a horrible fate, dentists will often remove wisdom teeth before they go rogue.

  • Seems reasonable, right?

  • Well, it's actually a controversial topic among some in the dental community.

  • The worry is that we're removing our wisdom teeth too frequently, often when it's unnecessary and the teeth pose no threat,

  • like if your mouth is big enough or you're one of the 38 percent of people who don't develop all four wisdom teeth.

  • In that case, risks from surgery like infection and nerve damage pose more danger than the teeth themselves.

  • But the fact remains.

  • When wisdom teeth do become a problem, you'll curse the day we invented cooking.

Each year, five million Americans get their wisdom teeth removed, which costs about three billion dollars in total medical costs.

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Why Do Wisdom Teeth Suck?

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/05/13
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