Wisdom teeth, otherwise known as third molars, are funny – we don’t like getting them in, but we hate getting them taken out even more! If you’ve had yours removed, then you definitely know what we’re talking about. But chances are you probably know a couple people who never got their wisdom teeth in at all. And the answer to our question – does everyone have wisdom teeth? – is a resounding no. We know it’s not fair, but life isn’t fair. So why didn’t they get their wisdom teeth? Let’s take a look at the possible reasons.
Sometimes They Really Do
Just because it looks like someone doesn’t have wisdom teeth doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have them. Sometimes, the teeth actually are in there, but they’re covered up by the gums or parts of the jaw bone. They’re referred to as being impacted. This can be a dangerous condition, so it’s important to get them taken care of as soon as possible. Cysts can develop around the impacted teeth, displacing or even damaging other teeth. On rare occasions, they can give rise to tumors, which can cause jawbones to break if they get too big.
And Sometimes They Really Don’t
But in many cases, people just really don’t have their wisdom teeth at all. They’re not impacted, they’re not hiding somewhere in the mouth – they just never showed up in the first place. Is this widespread? Not really. The American Dental Association estimates that about 25 to 35% of people in the world will never get any of their wisdom teeth in. Another 30% will only get 1 to 3 of them in. And interestingly enough, there are some people who get more than 4 wisdom teeth, although those cases are rare.
Why Don’t Some People Have Wisdom Teeth?
It’s actually not just a luck of the draw thing. The numbers of people without wisdom teeth are rising and there’s a good reason for it. Let’s take a detour from dentistry for a quick crash course in evolutionary biology.
In the caveman days, people ate a lot of hard to chew stuff, like meats, plants, and nuts, without any assistance. No tenderizer, no fork and knives, nothing. This put a lot of strain on the teeth and jawbones and is partially responsible for why caveman had such prominent jaws. Over time, this extra jaw space and need for more efficient eating led to the development of a third set of molars growing in, making it easier to chew stuff.
But over thousands of years, things reversed. We developed eating utensils, started processing our foods, and ate softer things, so the tough wisdom teeth of the cavemen were no longer needed. This is why we now see increasing numbers of people who never get any wisdom teeth at all and those who have them impacted. They’re simply not needed for our survival in modern society and are simply a reminder of our past.
To Sum It Up
The bottom line is that no, not everyone has wisdom teeth. Most people do, but about 1/3 of the world’s population doesn’t. In general, not getting them in is not something to be concerned about. With the conveniences of modern eating, they’re just not something we need anymore. They helped us eat better long ago, but our diets have changed to the point that they’re no longer needed.
However, if you notice any sort of pain around where your third molars would normally come in, it’s important to have it checked out by a dentist. The last thing you want is to have some impacted wisdom teeth that lead to complications down the road, like damage to other teeth, damage to the jaw, or oral cysts. It’s best to get this taken care of early in life – like your teens or 20s – then to wait until your older, as that can lead to complications with recovery.
If you’ve noticed your wisdom teeth may be growing in or if you’ve simply become concerned that your wisdom teeth may grow in soon it’s best to get a professional opinion from a qualified local dentist. We have the top rated dentists in nearly every city in the U.S. Whether you need a top rated dentist in Milwaukee, WI or just a cosmetic dentist in Saint Petersburg, FL we have it all!