Why We Have Wisdom Teeth

As a family orthodontics specialist, Dr. Chad Carver, DMD, at Stellar Family Orthodontics often gets questions about wisdom teeth. Preparing for orthodontics as a young adult sometimes means removing your wisdom teeth first. If you’re looking for a Mukilteo or Mill Creek orthodontist who can help you better understand these third molars, look no further than the team at Stellar Family Orthodontics.

Wisdom teeth

Commonly referred to as your third molars, wisdom teeth are the last teeth in your mouth to develop. They typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 21 but can develop as late as age 25. Many people view wisdom teeth as a mystery because humans don’t really need them anymore.

In fact, up to 70% of people with wisdom teeth have them removed, according to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Most dental and family ortho specialists recommend removing wisdom teeth as early as possible to prevent complications. The most common complication of wisdom teeth is impaction.

Impacted wisdom teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth can’t fully break through the gum line. This usually happens when there isn’t enough room in your jaw to support these final molars. If you have impacted wisdom teeth, they may partially emerge or become fully trapped beneath the gum line. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  • Jaw pain
  • Tooth decay
  • Cysts
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth pain
  • Tender gums
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

When preparing orthodontic treatment for teenagers or adults, Dr. Carver takes special note of your wisdom teeth. If he suspects they may cause problems for your orthodontics, he will recommend having them removed.

Why we still have wisdom teeth

With all the complications wisdom teeth can cause, it’s no surprise that many patients wonder why we even have them in the first place. Believe it or not, our ancestors needed wisdom teeth.

Here are just a few reasons why we have wisdom teeth, even though we no longer need them:

Jaw size

Human jaws used to be much larger than they are today. They were large enough for wisdom teeth to grow in comfortably. In the past, having extra teeth was useful for chewing, while a large jaw opened up the airways for easier breathing.


While modern humans have utensils to cut their food and kitchens to cook it, our ancestors didn’t have that luxury. They had to tear apart meat and chew fibrous plants using only their teeth. As a result, they had larger jaws to accommodate more teeth for eating. Wisdom teeth took pressure off of the surrounding teeth to prevent wear and tear.

Why jaw size matters

Dentists and orthodontists agree that our jaws are shrinking. While we can’t stop our jaws from evolving, we can take note of potential complications that will arise from these changes. Much like our ancestors, we need our teeth to chew, speak, and breathe comfortably.

As our jaws continue to evolve and shrink, wisdom teeth may not be our only problem. Shrinking jaws can lead to serious complications, such as:

These changes may even increase the need for tooth extractions, kids braces, and adult braces, to keep the jaws aligned and functioning properly.

To learn more about why we have wisdom teeth, call an affordable orthodontist at Stellar Family Orthodontics or schedule a free consultation online now!