Biologists believe that human wisdom teeth are "vestigial" organs, body parts that no longer have a functional purpose. Early humans sustained themselves on a diet that included very rough, coarse food that required additional molars to break down. Modern diets are much softer, and over time wisdom teeth have become practically useless, and often in the way of optimal oral health.
The American Dental Association highlights three common situations where wisdom teeth should be considered for removal:
In many cases, no issues exist, so careful, lifelong monitoring may be the best course of action.
- When they are only partially erupted. Infections, including pain and swelling, often occur.
- Poorly aligned wisdom teeth that can damage adjacent teeth.
- When a cyst forms around the tooth, potentially destroying surrounding bone and tooth roots.
When are wisdom teeth a problem?