Science Questions

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

Sun, 11th Nov 2007

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Question

Charlie asked:

Why do we have wisdom teeth? I hear that itís a remnant of evolution. Is that correct?

Answer

Victoria: Yes, as far as I understand it, thatís the case. Our ancestors needed wisdom teeth. They are, as many people will know through suffering, teeth that come through much later (between the ages of 18 and 25). Thatís why theyíre called wisdom teeth. Youíre older and wiser when you get them. Allegedly. Our ancestors, when they used to eat raw meat and grub around and eat lots of roughage would grind down their existing teeth. They had to use very powerful jaws and chew a lot more. They then had a spare set of teeth that came in later on.

Chris: Iíve only got one and it hasnít even come through. I went to the dentists about five years ago and he said letís do an x-ray and see where your wisdom teeth are and there was one wisdom tooth. I asked him why he thought I only had one as most faces are set up symmetrically. There must be some kind of developmental thing Ė the cells that make that tooth didnít turn up in that bit of my jaw.

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