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By Shwetha Kanan
Having trouble with your wisdom teeth and blaming yourself for lack of oral hygiene? Don’t do so because it is not lack of oral hygiene but evolution of human body which is the reason for this. Dentists across the city are seeing the rise in the number of people getting their wisdom teeth extracted for various reasons like overcrowding of teeth, damage to the neighboring teeth, pain and cheek bite, and they say that this is because the size of the human jaw is reducing and hence not able accommodate the wisdom tooth.
“When human beings were hunter-gatherers, the third molars were required to be able to chew plants, raw meat and other foodstuff that was eaten raw. It was necessary that these were chewed very well so that they could be passed out if not digested. But now, times have changed. We eat cooked food and hence don’t require too many teeth to chew it. So our jaw size has reduced but the number of teeth hasn’t. The smaller jaw size cannot accommodate the wisdom teeth so they get locked in the jaw bone. They cannot come out and therefore affect the neighboring teeth. This causes overcrowding and other problems, so the wisdom tooth has to be removed. This is called impacted wisdom tooth. Thirty to forty per cent people have problems with their wisdom teeth and maximum extractions are seen in the age group of 17 to 35,” said Dr Suchetan Pradhan, Cosmetic Implant and Laser Dentist, Hinduja Hospital.
The wisdom tooth got its name because it erupts at the age of 18 when one is supposed to have worldly wise. But the growth of the jaw takes place only upto the age of 16 or 17. So because there is no place to accommodate the wisdom teeth, they either are not able to erupt or they erupt at an angle causing trouble and lots of pain.
So, are wisdom teeth a nuisance?
“Yes, if they do not eruot or are unlikely to erupt by the age of 25, then it is advised that they should be removed. Every tooth has a follicle and the follicle of an unerupted tooth has the potential of causing a cyst or a tumour. This can cause weakness in the jaw, infection and pain.The tumour is rarely cancerous but can be locally aggressive. It can eat away the jaw and one consultant may have to undergo a surgery for reconstruction,” said Dr, Ashok Dabir, specialist in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Consultant at Breach Candy Hospital and professor at D.Y Patil Dental College, Navi Mumbai.
“As human beings evolved, the number of teeth fell from forty-four to forty, finally reaching thirty-two. Right now, the latest model of human being has jaws which can accommodate 28 teeth,” added Dr Dabir.
But this doesn’t mean that one just gets rid of the wisdom tooth. Though the number of people wanting to extract their wisdom teeth is on rise, it is only because they are having trouble with them.
“People want to extract their wisdom tooth only because they have problems like overcrowding, pain and cheek bites,” said Dr. Pradhan.
Dr. Dabir said, “If the wisdom teeth are not giving you any trouble and one has adequate space to accommodate them, then let them be. But if there is an unerupted tooth, then it is better that one gets it removed. But if one doesn’t want to undergo a surgery then annual checkups should be done and each X-ray should be preserved because it will be these X-ray reports that will determine if there are chances of having any trouble in the future.”
Source: Wisdom tooth? Lost it! – Thursday, 22 December 2011, Afternoon