The development of mammals has led to a dentition that typically has three molars. These hinterlands are called the wisdom tooth. The function of the cheek teeth is to chop and grind food, which enhances digestion.
The third molar is an important part of chewing, especially in vegetarian and mixed-eating species, with some exceptions.
In the case of modern man, it is confusing that the wisdom tooth often does not erupt normally and has to be surgically removed. In our history of development, however, this problem is new: it has only evolved over the last couple of centuries. As late as the 16th and 17th centuries, the wisdom teeth of Finns could be erupted through arches.
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The change is driven by the industrial food we use. You no longer need to chew food as much and vigorously as you used to chop it.
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Chewing affects the size of the jaws. Prolonged and more intense chewing stimulates growth. The difference in millimeters is not very large but sufficient to make it difficult to erupt the wisdom tooth or to cause biting errors that require orthodontic treatment.
The situation can be compared, for example, to an increase in allergies: their prevalence has been linked to a child’s developing immune system being exposed to too little strain. The low mechanical load on the jaws during growth, in turn, leads to slightly less growth and, with it, tooth eruptions and biting defects.
Respondent Juha Varrela,
Professor Emeritus of Dental Development and Orthodontics, University of Turku.
Published in Science Journal 1/2021
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