SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Many people have their wisdom teeth removed at a young age. But has anyone wondered why people have to get them removed or why they are called "wisdom" teeth?
Wisdom teeth are better known as third molars to dentists. Brent Henriksen is an oral surgeon at River Ridge in Sioux Falls. He said third molars were nicknamed wisdom teeth in the 17th century.
"They normally form and develop much later in life than the other teeth, usually around ages 17 to 22," Dr. Henriksen said. "It marks the transition from childhood or adolescence to adulthood."
So people thought the nickname made sense.
"I kind of think it's an oxymoron describing a wise 17 year old," Dr. Henriksen said.
Dr. Henriksen said less than 10% of the population has enough room in their jawbone for wisdom teeth. The molars can cause health issues if they aren't removed in a timely manner.
"This often results in impactions or partially impacted teeth that can cause bone loss," Dr. Henriksen said. "It can cause cyst development. It can cause infections, which sometimes can be very severe. Also we've seen them, not commonly, but cause tumor in the jawbone."
The procedure to remove wisdom teeth is routine for Henriksen. Sometimes, he will perform 12 extractions in one day. Normally, someone has four wisdom teeth, but some patients only have one or two.
"It depends on their genetic make up, so sometimes there might be small genetic mutations that change the number of teeth that someone has," Henriksen said.
Henriksen also said don't put off getting rid of your wisdom teeth because the longer you wait only complicates surgery and recovery time. He said the population that doesn't have to get the teeth removed can be called lucky, but they also have to worry about cleaning their teeth well.