Many centuries ago, human beings survived on chewy plants and raw meat. To chew these foods properly, a person had to have big, powerful jaws and a complete set of molars. Therefore, wisdom teeth were extremely important to early humans. But as humans continue to evolve, their jaws have continued to shrink, leaving no room for wisdom teeth, which are the last set of molars to emerge at the back of the mouth.
Also, civilization has made it possible for human beings to learn different ways of softening their food, including cooking. This means that we do not need an extra set of molars to chew food and live normal, happy lives. Furthermore, wisdom teeth have proved problematic, exposing people to different oral complications, especially when they become impacted.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Impacted?
The main reason why wisdom teeth become impacted is that there is no room in the jaw for them to erupt successfully. Consequently, these teeth will either grow at the wrong angle or get stuck underneath the gum. Studies have shown that some people are more genetically predisposed to wisdom teeth impaction than others. This is because genetics play an important role, albeit unpredictable, in determining the size of your jaw and teeth.
Some experts also believe that genetics can determine how your teeth will erupt. Therefore, your wisdom teeth can be impacted if one of your parents had the same problem. Some scholars argue that the increasing cases of impacted wisdom teeth are due to an evolutionary decrease in the size of human jaws because of the softer diets that we eat today.
How to Diagnose Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If a more significant portion of your wisdom tooth is visible, then your dentist will simply examine it physically to determine its depth, angulation, and possibility of a further eruption. Sometimes wisdom teeth will continue to erupt up to the age of 25 and later continue to move in case of periodontal disease.
If the impacted tooth is not visible, the dentist will perform panoramic radiography or cone-beam CT scan to check the tooth’s condition. Some dentists can even predict the possibility of a wisdom tooth becoming impacted even before it erupts. They use simple predictors such as the possible length of your tooth crown and the space available, and the possible angle of the tooth in relation to the existing teeth.
To avoid the risk of having impacted wisdom teeth, many dentists recommend removing your wisdom teeth when they erupt, whether they are painful or not.