Are wisdom teeth necessary?

“Dear dentist,

My wisdom teeth are growing in sideways, and are crushing my molars. My first molar has already broken in half, and I needed to get a crown and a root canal to fix it, and I have an appointment to get the wisdom tooth removed. My question is; are there going to be any negative repercussions involved in getting them removed? I know that when a tooth falls out the other teeth are likely to start falling out too, so I don’t know what to do, does this mean that my molar is going to start falling out? What function do wisdom teeth serve?

Thank you,

John Patrick”

Dear John Patrick,

Your question is a serious one that requires a little bit of an explanation. To comfort you right away, no, your molar is not going to fall out if you get your wisdom tooth removed, and if your wisdom tooth is impacted (growing sideways) than it is likely that keeping your wisdom teeth in will make your molars fall out. Or break into pieces, at the very least.

necessary

Wisdom teeth are vestigial remnants from a time when our skulls were bigger and our brains smaller. There simply is not enough room for the wisdom teeth in the jaw, and this is why when it starts to grow, you will find all sorts of problems, like breaking molars, which you are suffering form. The reason it is breaking is because the wisdom tooth is growing into the rest of your teeth, and crushing them together, breaking your molars. This pressure that the wisdom teeth are applying is painful, damaging, and ultimately quite unnecessary. This is because the wisdom teeth are vestigial, and whatever function they once had, we no longer need them at all. Many dentists pull wisdom teeth even when the teeth are perfectly fine, and have nothing wrong with them, simply because they are likely to cause damage and unnecessary pain to the patient at one point or another. Getting them removed will have no negative repercussions aside from the pain of the surgery, and possibly a little bit of swelling afterwards.

The other issue I see you mentioning is tooth loss. The teeth are anchored in a soft ligament and bone combination called the alveolus. The alveolus is an interesting organ, and teeth actually have some, very limited mobility within the alveolus. Once tooth roots are gone and removed from the alveolus, the alveolar tissue starts to disintegrate. This is what we call tooth loss, and you are right, the alveolus weakens with each tooth lost, making it much more likely that subsequent teeth will also be lost. But the wisdom tooth lies at the very edge of the alveolus, and as such, has no direct effect on tooth mobility or tooth loss.

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