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Why did human beings have wisdom teeth in the first place?

Human beings evolved to have wisdom teeth to help them keep chewing raw foods well into adulthood. Early on, men and women knew no macaroni and cheese. They survived by chewing large amounts of raw foods, both plants and animals. That tended to wear down adult teeth. So around age 17 to 25, a brand-new set of strong molars showed up, and robust chewing could continue. Today, humans eat more cooked and processed foods, so they have less use for these wisdom teeth. It's fine to keep them if they don't cause problems. But they often come in crooked or become impacted, in which case your dentist can extract them.
There was a time -- about 100 million years ago -- when our jaws could easily accommodate all 32 teeth, including the wisdom teeth. That was when human beings got around on all four limbs and had a protruding jaw leading the way.

Early man's jaws were more prominent because his teeth played an essential role in survival. The front appendages previously were occupied with balance and running, while the teeth were used to catch, dismember and consume prey.

Our ancestors lived a on diet of chewy and tough roots, leaves and raw meat. It was a huge advantage at that time to have 32 teeth for chewing, especially because early man did not go to the dentist to maintain healthy teeth.

Having a third set of molars may have been a way to ensure prehistoric man had backup teeth when other teeth were worn down or lost.

Once hominoids began walking upright the arms took on a bigger role in gathering food. After that, our brains became larger and our jaws became shorter.

Researchers still do not know which came first, but in 2004, a team from the University of Pennsylvania announced the discovery of a gene called MYH16. Mutations in the gene lead to shorter jaws, which may have allowed early man's brain to grow. However it happened, when the brain began to grow, there was less space in the mouth for teeth.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.