Our mouths often don’t have the space to accommodate all of our teeth, which results in crowding, along with the poor alignment of the teeth. Our ancestors only 200-300 years ago had fully functional wisdom teeth with much bigger jaws than we do. They needed big, strong jaws to chew the uncooked vegetables, meat and tough foods that often made up their diet.
Changes came after the industrial revolution with a big shift in food, as we moved from farms to cities, and started having a softer diet, consuming cooked foods like beans and cereals that required less chewing and less effort, and didn’t demand such a high level of mouth strength. Over time, as jaws became smaller in response to these dietary changes, teeth didn’t follow suit, remaining around the same size. This likely led to the problem of a small jaw size which is so common today.
Over 80% of the modern population now gets impacted wisdom teeth, although wisdom teeth are now unnecessary teeth. Today our meals are softer and easier to chew, and our jaws and dentition have shortened as a result, so there just isn’t room for wisdom teeth. This is why wisdom teeth are often impacted or misaligned in the jaw when they erupt in the mouth. Such impaction of wisdom teeth often leads to infection, pain, and other dental problems. Wisdom teeth have become vestigial organs like the appendix.
The human development caused an abrupt change in the way human dentition had been evolving. The jaw is slimming down and the face is lengthening. Changes in human diet, food preparation, and technology have made meat and other foods tender and easier to chew, again reducing the need for a large dentition. The uniquely human ability to make technological advances such as the introduction of mixer/ grinders made it possible to stew food to a liquid consistency, along with highly processed foods has altered the course of dentition, and large teeth became even less essential to survival.
The advent of modern dentistry, and the ability to extract impacted, infected wisdom teeth helps to give a healthy and productive life afterward.