young adult man looking in mirror at his teethHigh-schoolers know them as giant pains, scientist and dentists know them as “third molars,” but most of us know them as wisdom teeth. How smart these teeth are is up for debate, but the more you begin to know about wisdom teeth, one thing becomes obvious: they’re pretty weird.

For most, wisdom teeth serve as just another milestone in our coming of age. The back of our mouths start to hurt, our wisdom teeth begin “erupting,” the term used to describe these teeth breaking through the gum line, and when we go see a dentist, they either stay in or half to come out. However, they aren’t quite that straight forward. While the majority of the population has their wisdom teeth by twenty-five, many have none at all, have some missing, and some have theirs erupt late in late. If you’re like Robert Gray, the Guinness Book of World record holder for latest wisdom teeth eruption, you might not see them until the spry age of 94.

But that’s not the half of how weird these teeth can be.

Wisdom Teeth Are Pointless

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, wisdom teeth were a welcome arrival which helped us to chomp down of uncooked meat, and tough roots and leaves. Now, our palates are more defined, most of us switching out the raw meat for a kale salad or a healthy smoothie. Not only do we not use them, but they occupy valuable real estate in our mouths. According to Princeton University researcher, Alan Mann, between 800,000 and 200,000 years ago, human brains started growing rapidly, changing the shape of our skull and leaving no space for third molars.

The Number of Wisdom Teeth Varies Widely

Across the board, patients can have between 1-4 wisdom teeth or none at all. However, it’s also possible for someone to have even more. Called supernumerary teeth, some patients can have a fourth molar set, though it is very rare. What determines the number of wisdom teeth someone has, seems to be genetic factors like jaw size. Almost no Aboriginal Tasmanians have third molars while African Americans and Asian Americans are more likely to have fewer than four.

Wisdom Teeth Are Used in Stem Cell Research

As it turns out, wisdom teeth have a purpose after all. Even though much of the research being done is in the experimental phase, scientist are using wisdom teeth to conduct research on their regenerative properties. One study in particular, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, found that stem cells taken from wisdom teeth could possibly be used to repair corneas that have been scarred and damaged by disease and infection. Of course, these experiments were only conducted on mice, so human trials are still far off.

Whether or not your wisdom teeth have begun to erupt, if you’ve been feeling pain in your mouth, you should schedule and appointment/contact’}}}} with your local dentist. The American Dental Association suggests visiting the dentist every six months to ensure no major complications begin to develop.

If you are looking for quality general dentistry in Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 or email Kuzma Advanced Dentistry today for an appointment.