Why wisdom teeth can appear later in life
If wisdom teeth have broke cover – so to say – in your mouth, you can probably attest to the wide array of inconveniences that they can herald. Whether they curse your mouth with overcrowding, tooth decay or gum infections as listed by The Guardian, you could easily wonder why on earth you get these teeth at all.
Wisdom teeth can be basically described as evolutionary leftovers from when we needed stronger teeth to eat raw food. These teeth can also emerge surprisingly late in life, as we will explain…
What exactly are wisdom teeth?
We are, of course, all familiar with the traditional development of teeth. Usually, our first set of molars starts emerging around the age of six, as explained on the Scienceline site. The second set arrives as we reach roughly 12, but wisdom teeth start forming about two years before then.
Wisdom teeth comprise the third and final set of molars. As such, they typically don’t erupt until we have reached the 17 to 25 age bracket. That’s the time of our lives when we are said to turn wiser, hence the name “wisdom teeth”. However, they don’t tend to be entirely practical for modern humans.
It would have been a very different story for your prehistoric ancestors, whose diets would have largely consisted of raw meat, roots and leaves, Mental Floss explains. Eating that kind of food would have required powerful choppers, but modern diets generally focus on softer food.
Can wisdom teeth simply be left alone?
It’s not always practically possible – and that’s because, unfortunately, evolution has not yet fully caught up to the increased redundancy of wisdom teeth. As humans’ brains have grown over hundreds of centuries, this has taken up room previously reserved for teeth.
As a result, your wisdom teeth may cause problems as they erupt; we’ve already listed a few of the potential issues. If a wisdom tooth only partially erupts, food could get trapped in the surrounding gum tissue, potentially leading to bacteria growth as well as serious infection.
If your wisdom teeth indeed become seriously infected, causing abrupt oral damage and pain while also limiting or preventing oral activities like eating, this would be a dental emergency. In this situation, you should contact an emergency dentist in London or wherever else you happen to be.
How late can wisdom teeth erupt?
Quite simply, they can erupt at any time. If you are beyond your early twenties, don’t get too complacent. Don’t think that you have probably dodged the nuisance of wisdom teeth. Guinness World Records has reported that the oldest person ever growing a wisdom tooth was aged 94 years.
This doesn’t quite seem to typify modern developments of wisdom teeth. Writing his book The History of Animals, the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle cited known cases of “women upwards of 80 years old where at the very close of life the wisdom-teeth have come up”, adding that “cases have been known of the like phenomenon in men too.” That’s all wisdom worth heeding.