Today, we need to have wisdom teeth removed to prevent several oral health problems caused because these third molars can’t fit properly in our mouth. But wisdom teeth actually had a necessary function for our ancient ancestors.
Hunter-gatherer peoples ate a very coarse diet of roots, berries, nut, leaves, and meat. These foods were tough, especially considering that they were not cooked. In order to have enough chewing force to grind these foods down, hunter-gatherers had the help of their wisdom teeth and a larger jaw.
Diet was the reason our ancient ancestors needed wisdom teeth. It is also the same reason why we don’t need wisdom teeth today. Wisdom teeth are vestigial and our jaws are smaller because our diet consists of softer, cooked foods. We also have the added benefit of forks, spoons, and knives to cut these foods into pieces.
Since our jaws are so much smaller, wisdom teeth often remain under the gum line or only erupt partially. Because of this, these teeth can cause tooth decay, damage to surrounding teeth, gum disease, cysts, and even tumors. Since wisdom teeth are no longer necessary, we have them removed to prevent these dental health problems from developing.