The Real Reason Some People Are Born Without Wisdom Teeth

Does having wisdom teeth actually mean you're smarter? Not exactly, but it's true that not everyone is born with them.

Wisdom teeth are considered the "third molars" of the mouth. They develop on the brink of adulthood, giving them their name (via Dear Doctor Magazine). These final molars usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25, although some people who have them never even see them emerge (also known as impacted wisdom teeth). Sometimes, our jaws are too small to make room for them, leading to misalignment, crowded mouths, pain, and damaged nerves (via WebMD). Partial eruption of the wisdom teeth can also be a problem, as they can allow for more bacteria to invade the gums and lead to possible infection, as well as a higher likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease.

In this case, wisdom teeth are usually surgically removed, which five million people opt for per year, according to the experts at Prestige Family Dentistry. This uncomfortable procedure is now only recommended when absolutely necessary by the American Public Health Association, citing the lack of evidence for preventative removal as well as the unnecessary cost.

Why don't we all have wisdom teeth?

Evolution helps us understand why some people are born with wisdom teeth and some aren't. In fact, anywhere from 5% to 37% of people never develop the third molars, according to Dental Research Journal. If your parents never got their wisdom teeth, you might not either, suggesting it could be a genetic trait (via Healthline).

Wisdom teeth are what we call vestigial structures, meaning that much like our tailbones and infant grasp reflexes, we no longer have a use for them due to evolution (via Britannica). As human civilizations developed, we began eating softer and more processed foods, which meant that our jaws evolved to become smaller and less powerful. With smaller jaws came less room for molars, which is why some people have more trouble with their wisdom teeth and some have none at all.

Not sure if you have wisdom teeth? According to WebMD, your dentist can take an X-ray to check and evaluate your need to have your wisdom teeth removed.