Losing Wisdom

Losing Wisdom

Ryan Birchfield, Photojournalist

The lights are shining right in your eyes, and you’re surrounded by sharp, gleaming metal and pristine white walls.  Horror slowly creeps up into your chest as you realize you are wearing a white paper bib, and an IV is attached to your arm.  Any second now, you will be put under, and the horrific operation will begin  You tense, suddenly nervous, even though you know that you are long past the point of no return.  The doctor, dressed in his immaculate white coat, enters the room, and prepares to inject the anesthetic.

“Good night,” he says.  You feel the cold needle worming its way under your skin, and then, you’re out like a light.  A blink-of-an-eye later (or an hour later, depending on who you ask), you wake up, and the terrible process is behind you.  Your wisdom teeth are gone!

What are wisdom teeth, though?  Why do we have them?  What makes them so ‘wise’?  Why on Earth do we have to undergo the extreme pain of having them removed?  The answer: evolution.

Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars that normally make themselves known anywhere between 16 and 23 years of age.  They are the evolutionary by-product of our distant ancestors’ tough diets of nuts and berries.  This diet wore away at their teeth, making a third set of molars very useful.

Currently, though, they are vestigial organs, or useless, annoying organs that are not necessary or needed in any way, shape, or form.  They do, however, cause lots of problems.  Because our jaws have gotten smaller as evolution went on, most people no longer have room for these teeth in their jaws, causing painful impaction and jaw aches, so they need to be removed.

They don’t sound very wise, do they?  The third molar got its nickname because of the time it erupted from the mouth;  I guess when you’re 17-23, you are (hopefully) a ‘wiser’ person.  Dentists recommend getting them removed when you are a young adult in order to avoid complications that can occur when you are older.

The number of wisdom teeth people have varies from 1 to 4 (and in rare cases, more than 4).  Scientists aren’t quite sure why this is, but it really is a pain.  I had to have 4 wisdom teeth removed, and most of my friends only had one or two.  On the plus side, after the operation, the only things I could eat were ice cream, mashed potatoes, and soup.  Guess which one I had more of. . .

Also on a more positive note, there are some funny videos of people on laughing gas because of the operation.  Jessie Sardina (10) said that she woke up and told her mother that she was fine.  “My mouth was bleeding like crazy, and for some reason I tried to walk.  When I got up, I fell flat on my face.  I did that twice.”  I guess it just shows that everything has a silver lining, even the painful process of wisdom teeth extraction.