Ask a Dentist

May 14, 2020

Q: Why are some people born without wisdom teeth?

Graphic of 4 molars, with the molar on the far right tilted and crowding into the other molars

A: Seven million years ago, our human ancestors had molars twice the size of our modern-day molars. Two million years ago, our human ancestors’ molars got smaller, to about 1.5 times the size of our modern-day molars.

Remember, our ancestors went hunting and gathering for their food. What they ate was typically much tougher to chew than the food we eat today. Scientists say raw meat must have encouraged jaw growth and strengthening.Scientists also say disappearing wisdom teeth may be a result of our changing farming and eating styles. A study done at Princeton University showed about 35% of people are born without wisdom teeth.That leaves 65% of us with wisdom teeth and 24% of us who will get impacted wisdom teeth in our lifetime. Unlucky for us, wisdom teeth tend to be difficult to reach and clean. If we don’t get them removed, we may develop a few different issues: cellulitis, damage to neighbouring teeth, permanent tooth decay, irreparable nerve damage,  abscesses or jaw infections.