While not everyone has them, chances are that you or someone you know has had the unfortunate experience of having to have wisdom teeth removed. For some, it’s not a difficult experience. For others, like yours truly, it’s one of the worst things they’ve ever been through. But the question comes up: why, if we have all have to have them removed, do humans even get wisdom teeth? What purpose do, or did, they serve?
Firstly, why are they called “wisdom teeth”? They developed that name since they come in later than other teeth, usually when you’re older and, hopefully, wiser. And, while they may be considered useless by modern-day humans, that wasn’t always the case. Our primitive ancestors ate meats, roots, leaves…stuff so tough they make beef jerky feel like mashed potatoes in comparison. Those extra molars at the back the mouth, which we now call wisdom teeth, developed to aid our forebearers with eating to survive.
As humans evolved over the millennia, however, our brains have gotten progressively bigger & our facial position has moved farther down & inward on our skulls. It was about the time that primitive humans began walking upright that other changes to facial structure occurred, such as the protruding jawbones of early man gradually moving backward toward the base of the skull & neck. That made the jaw itself shorter & left no room for those four “wisdom teeth” (or 3rd molars).
So, what purpose do wisdom teeth serve? None now. Well, not except for dentists, who get paid a lot of money to take them out.
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