Why Do Humans Have Wisdom Teeth?


Quick Answer

Evolutionary biologists believe that humans needed wisdom teeth, which are the third set of molars, a long time ago when their diet consisted almost entirely of tough foods such as roots, leaves and nuts. As humans began consuming more soft meats and using utensils, the wisdom teeth were no longer needed to help chew food.

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Full Answer

As of 2014, wisdom teeth are considered "vestigial," which means that they were once important for development but are now unnecessary. Over time, the human mouth became smaller, since this third set of molars was no longer needed. This explains why wisdom teeth do not properly fit in the modern human jaw.

Without room to develop properly, many wisdom teeth do not come in, come in crooked or come in impacted. Since wisdom teeth are no longer necessary for chewing and often develop poorly, causing oral pain or infection, they are often removed after they come in. Wisdom teeth begin to appear between the ages of 17 and 25, and there can be anywhere from one to four of them: Two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw form the full set. Some individuals never develop wisdom teeth, which lends support to their classification as vestigial.

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