Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth? Find Out the Reason!

Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth? Find Out the Reason!

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that typically erupt in the late teenage years or early twenties. While many people have had their wisdom teeth removed, others still wonder about the origin of their name. Why are they called wisdom teeth?

The concept of wisdom teeth can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the philosopher Aristotle referred to them as “teeth of wisdom” due to the timing of their eruption coinciding with increased maturity and wisdom. In fact, the term “wisdom teeth” has been in use for over 400 years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that typically erupt in the late teenage years or early twenties.
  • The term “wisdom teeth” can be traced back to ancient Greece.
  • The philosopher Aristotle referred to them as “teeth of wisdom” due to their timing of eruption coinciding with increased maturity and wisdom.

The History of Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, have been a topic of fascination for centuries. The ancient Greeks referred to them as “odontiasis,” or “tooth of maturity,” because they typically appeared in adulthood. Aristotle believed that these teeth were vestigial organs that served no purpose. It wasn’t until the 17th century that wisdom teeth were given their current name.

The Naming of Wisdom Teeth

The term “wisdom teeth” originated in the English language in the mid-17th century, likely due to the fact that they appear during a time of increased maturity and wisdom. Prior to this, they were referred to as “teeth of wisdom” or “dentitio difficilis,” which means “difficult teeth.”

However, the concept of wisdom teeth extends far beyond the English language. In many cultures, these teeth are seen as a symbol of growth and development. In Japanese culture, they are called “oyashirazu,” which roughly translates to “unknown to parents,” referring to the fact that they emerge after childhood. In Korean culture, they are known as “yondemolar teeth,” which means “frequently appearing molars.”

The History of Wisdom Teeth

The evolutionary history of wisdom teeth dates back to our ancient ancestors who had larger jaws and ate tougher, more fibrous foods. As our diets evolved, our jaws became smaller, leaving less room for these extra teeth to grow in.

Researchers believe that wisdom teeth were once essential for our ancestors, as they provided extra chewing power and were able to replace molars that fell out due to wear and tear. However, as our diets became softer and our jaws evolved to be smaller, wisdom teeth gradually became less necessary.

Despite their decreased importance, wisdom teeth continue to erupt in many individuals today. In fact, around 90 percent of people will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth in their lifetime.

Evolutionary Significance

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, have puzzled dentists for years. Unlike other teeth, they are not necessary for normal dental function and often cause discomfort and dental problems. However, wisdom teeth do serve an evolutionary purpose.

Millions of years ago, our ancient ancestors had larger jaws and needed more teeth to grind up tough food. As our diets became softer and easier to digest, our jaws began to shrink, and we no longer needed as many teeth. However, our genes have not caught up to our diets, and some people continue to develop wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth may have been advantageous for our ancestors, allowing them to consume more rough, fibrous foods. Additionally, our ancestors often lost teeth due to lack of proper dental care, so having additional teeth was beneficial. While wisdom teeth are no longer necessary, they still serve as a relic of our evolutionary past.

Understanding Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set of molars to erupt in the back of the mouth, typically between the ages of 17 and 25.

Wisdom teeth serve the same purpose as other molars, which is to grind and chew food to aid in digestion. However, due to their location at the back of the mouth, they can be difficult to clean properly and may cause dental problems.

Wisdom teeth can become impacted, meaning that they are unable to fully emerge from the gums, and can increase the risk of infection and tooth decay. In some cases, they may also cause overcrowding, shifting adjacent teeth and leading to bite problems.

Despite the potential issues, not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. In some cases, they may be healthy and properly positioned, and not cause any problems. However, if your dentist recommends removal, it’s best to follow their advice to prevent future dental issues.

The Naming of Wisdom Teeth

Have you ever wondered why they’re called wisdom teeth? The name “wisdom teeth” comes from the fact that they usually emerge during early adulthood, a time when people are traditionally thought to become wiser.

Interestingly, the term “wisdom teeth” is a relatively modern one. Prior to the 18th century, these teeth were referred to as “teeth of maturity,” reflecting their emergence during this stage of life.

Some cultures have their own names for wisdom teeth. In Japan, they are called “oyashirazu,” which translates to “unknown to the parent teeth.” In Korea, they are known as “noonya,” meaning “mulberry teeth” due to their resemblance to the shape of a mulberry.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Wisdom teeth extraction is a common dental procedure that involves removing one or more of the four molars located at the back of your mouth. These teeth typically emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood and can cause discomfort or other dental issues.

Before the procedure, your dentist will assess your teeth and determine the best approach for the extraction. Local anesthesia is typically used to numb the area around the tooth, and in some cases, sedation may also be used to help you relax during the procedure.

Step Description
Incision The dentist will make an incision in the gum tissue surrounding the tooth.
Removal The tooth will then be carefully removed. In some cases, it may need to be broken into pieces to facilitate removal.
Cleaning The area will be cleaned to remove any remaining tooth or bone fragments.
Sutures Sutures may be added to promote healing and prevent infection.
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After the extraction, you may experience discomfort, swelling, or bleeding. Your dentist will provide instructions for post-operative care, which may include applying ice to the area and avoiding certain foods and activities for a period of time.

It’s important to follow your dentist’s instructions and attend any follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing and to address any potential complications that may arise.

Cultural Beliefs and Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth have long been a source of fascination and superstition in many cultures around the world. In some societies, they are seen as a sign of maturity and wisdom, while in others, they are considered a symbol of impending death or bad luck.

In many African cultures, the eruption of wisdom teeth is celebrated as a rite of passage into adulthood. It is common for young adults to undergo traditional rituals to mark the occasion, which often involve dancing, singing, and religious ceremonies.

However, in other cultures, wisdom teeth are seen as a harbinger of doom. Some people believe that the eruption of wisdom teeth is a sign of impending death or bad luck, and take steps to prevent their growth. These include wearing talismans or amulets, avoiding certain foods, or performing rituals to ward off evil spirits.

Interestingly, the beliefs surrounding wisdom teeth are not limited to ancient or traditional cultures. Even in modern times, many people hold onto superstitions and misconceptions about these teeth. For example, some people believe that wisdom teeth cause headaches or ear infections, despite there being no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Wisdom Teeth and Dreams

In some cultures, wisdom teeth are believed to be connected to dreams and the subconscious mind. For example, in the Hmong culture of Southeast Asia, it is believed that dreams about losing teeth or having them pulled out are a sign that a family member will die. Additionally, some Native American cultures believe that wisdom teeth are associated with dreams and visions, and that their eruption can lead to spiritual awakening.

Wisdom Teeth and Paranormal Activity

Finally, in some cultures, wisdom teeth are thought to be connected to paranormal activity or supernatural powers. For example, in certain African cultures, it is believed that people with supernumerary teeth (extra teeth, including wisdom teeth) have special powers and abilities, such as the ability to communicate with spirits or predict the future.

While many of these beliefs may seem unfounded or superstitious, they provide insight into the cultural significance of wisdom teeth and how they have been perceived throughout history.

Wisdom Teeth Complications

While wisdom teeth are a natural part of our dental development, they can cause a range of complications if they don’t emerge properly. Some potential problems associated with wisdom teeth include:

  • Impacted wisdom teeth – When a wisdom tooth is unable to emerge fully due to lack of space, it becomes “impacted,” which can lead to pain, infection, and damage to nearby teeth.
  • Infection – Wisdom teeth can be difficult to clean, leaving them vulnerable to bacterial buildup and infection.
  • Crowding – If wisdom teeth emerge at an angle or improperly, they can push adjacent teeth out of position, disrupting the natural alignment of your bite.
  • Cysts and tumors – In rare cases, the sac surrounding an impacted wisdom tooth can fill with fluid, leading to cysts or even tumors.

It’s important to monitor your wisdom teeth for signs of these complications and address any issues promptly to prevent further damage to your oral health.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction Process

The wisdom teeth removal process typically involves several steps, from preparation to post-operative care. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Preparation: Prior to the procedure, your dentist or oral surgeon will review your medical history and determine the best anesthesia option for you. You may be given local anesthesia, which numbs only your mouth, or general anesthesia, which makes you sleep during the procedure. You will also be given instructions on what to eat and drink before the surgery.
  2. The Procedure: During the surgery, the dentist or surgeon will make an incision in your gum tissue to access the tooth and bone. They may need to remove bone surrounding the tooth or cut the tooth into smaller pieces to make removal easier. Once the tooth is removed, the incision will be closed with stitches. The entire process usually takes about 45 minutes.
  3. Recovery: After the procedure, you will be monitored in a recovery room until the anesthesia wears off. You may experience some bleeding, swelling, and discomfort, which can be managed with pain medication and ice packs. Your dentist or surgeon will provide specific instructions on how to care for your mouth as you heal, which may include recommendations for diet, oral hygiene, and follow-up appointments.

It’s important to follow all instructions provided by your dentist or surgeon to ensure a smooth and successful recovery after wisdom teeth extraction.

When Should Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?

Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. However, if you are experiencing pain, swelling, or infection, or if your dentist has determined that your wisdom teeth are causing damage to your neighboring teeth, extraction may be recommended.

The ideal timing for wisdom teeth removal is typically in the late teenage years or early twenties, before the roots have fully developed and the extraction process is less complicated. Additionally, if your wisdom teeth are causing issues, it is best to have them removed as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Factors that Influence the Decision to Remove Wisdom Teeth

Several factors may be considered when determining whether to remove wisdom teeth. These include:

  • The position and angle of the teeth
  • The stage of tooth development
  • The health of your teeth and gums
  • The presence of any symptoms or problems

Your dentist or oral surgeon will evaluate your individual situation and recommend a course of action based on these and other factors.

Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery

Recovering from wisdom teeth removal can take anywhere from a few days to a week or more, depending on the individual and the extent of the extraction. It’s important to follow your dentist’s post-operative instructions closely to ensure a smooth and speedy recovery.

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Immediate Post-Op

Immediately after the procedure, it’s normal to experience some bleeding, swelling, and discomfort. Your dentist may provide you with gauze pads to bite down on to help control bleeding and reduce swelling. Applying an ice pack to your face can also help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. It’s important to avoid smoking, drinking through a straw, or rinsing your mouth vigorously, as these actions can dislodge the blood clot and delay healing.

Medication and Diet

Your dentist may prescribe pain medication and/or antibiotics to help manage discomfort and prevent infection. It’s important to take these medications as directed and avoid consuming hard, crunchy, or spicy foods that could irritate the extraction site. Stick to soft, cold, and bland foods such as yogurt, smoothies, and soup for the first few days after surgery. You can gradually introduce more solid foods as tolerated.

Oral Hygiene

Keeping your mouth clean is crucial for preventing infection and promoting healing. Your dentist may recommend rinsing your mouth with a saltwater solution or using a prescribed mouthwash to help keep the extraction site clean. It’s important to be gentle when brushing your teeth and avoid directly brushing the extraction site until it has fully healed.

If you experience any excessive bleeding, fever, or severe pain, contact your dentist immediately. With proper care and attention, you can make a full recovery following wisdom teeth removal.

Home Remedies for Wisdom Teeth Discomfort

Dealing with wisdom teeth discomfort can be a painful and frustrating experience. While consulting with a dentist is the best course of action, there are a few home remedies and natural treatments that can provide relief.

Here are a few tips to try:

  • Clove oil: Known for its natural numbing properties, clove oil can provide relief from pain and inflammation. Mix a few drops of clove oil with a carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil, and apply it to the affected area using a cotton swab.
  • Saltwater rinse: A saltwater rinse is a simple and effective home remedy for swollen and inflamed gums caused by wisdom teeth. Mix a teaspoon of salt in warm water and swish it around your mouth for a few minutes before spitting it out.
  • Ice pack: Applying an ice pack to your cheek can help reduce swelling and numb the area, providing temporary relief from pain and discomfort.
  • Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe sore gums. Steep a tea bag in hot water for a few minutes before letting it cool down and applying it to the affected area.
  • Cucumber slices: Cucumbers have natural cooling properties and can help reduce inflammation and swelling. Place a chilled cucumber slice on the affected area for a few minutes at a time.

It’s important to note that while these remedies may provide temporary relief, they do not treat the underlying issue. If your wisdom teeth are causing severe pain or discomfort, it’s best to speak with a dentist and discuss the possibility of extraction.

Wisdom Teeth Vs. Molar Teeth

While wisdom teeth and molars are both types of teeth, they serve different functions and have distinct characteristics.

Molars are large, flat teeth located at the back of the mouth that are used for grinding and chewing food. They have multiple cusps, or pointed edges, that help break down tough foods.

Wisdom teeth, on the other hand, are located at the very back of the mouth and typically erupt in the late teenage years or early adulthood. They were once thought to serve a purpose in the human diet, but with modern diets and improved dental hygiene, they are no longer necessary for chewing.

One of the main differences between molars and wisdom teeth is their eruption patterns. Molars typically erupt in childhood, while wisdom teeth erupt much later, often causing discomfort and requiring extraction.

Another significant difference is the size and shape of the teeth. Molars are generally larger and flatter with multiple cusps, while wisdom teeth are smaller and often come in irregular shapes that can cause problems with alignment and overcrowding.

Overall, while molars and wisdom teeth both play important roles in dental health, they are distinct in their location, function, and eruption patterns.

Wisdom Teeth Myths Debunked

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding wisdom teeth, and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common wisdom teeth myths and provide factual information to dispel any misinformation.

Myth #1: Everyone Needs Their Wisdom Teeth Removed

While it’s true that many people have their wisdom teeth removed, not everyone needs to have this procedure. In some cases, wisdom teeth grow in normally and do not cause any problems. Your dentist or oral surgeon will evaluate your specific situation to determine whether or not you need your wisdom teeth extracted.

Myth #2: Wisdom Teeth Removal is Always Painful

While wisdom teeth removal can be uncomfortable, it is not always a painful procedure. Advances in anesthesia and pain management have made the process much more tolerable than it was in the past. The amount of pain you experience will vary based on your individual situation and the type of anesthesia used during the procedure.

Myth #3: Wisdom Teeth Cause Crowding of Other Teeth

This is a common belief, but it is not entirely accurate. While wisdom teeth can sometimes push your other teeth out of alignment, they are not always responsible for crowding. In fact, studies have shown that there is no strong correlation between the presence of wisdom teeth and the crowding of other teeth.

Myth #4: You Can’t Get Cavities in Your Wisdom Teeth

Many people believe that because wisdom teeth are located at the back of your mouth, they are less susceptible to cavities. However, this is not true. Wisdom teeth are just as vulnerable to cavities as your other teeth, and they can be difficult to clean properly due to their location.

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Myth #5: Wisdom Teeth Extraction is Dangerous

While any surgical procedure carries some level of risk, wisdom teeth extraction is generally a safe and routine procedure. Your dentist or oral surgeon will take steps to minimize the risk of complications, and will provide you with detailed instructions for aftercare to ensure a smooth recovery.

By debunking these common wisdom teeth myths, we can better understand the realities of this important dental issue.


Wisdom teeth have been a point of interest in dental history, stemming from their unique name and their evolutionary significance. While they were once essential for human survival, they now often cause more problems than benefits. As we have explored, wisdom teeth can lead to complications such as impaction, infection, and overcrowding, and they require extraction in many cases. The extraction process involves preparation, anesthesia, the procedure itself, and recovery, and it is important to follow post-operative care guidelines for a smooth recovery.

Additionally, we have discussed various myths and misconceptions surrounding wisdom teeth, and it’s important to differentiate fact from fiction. Home remedies and natural treatments can also help alleviate discomfort during and after wisdom teeth eruption or extraction, but professional medical advice should always be sought in more serious circumstances.

Keep Your Wisdom Teeth in Check

Overall, understanding wisdom teeth and their significance can help us take better care of our dental health. Regular dental checkups can help identify any issues with wisdom teeth early on, and having them removed at the right time can prevent complications and ensure a healthy smile. So make sure to keep your wisdom teeth in check and consult with your dentist if you have any concerns!


Q: Why are they called wisdom teeth?

A: The term “wisdom teeth” refers to the third set of molars that typically emerge in adulthood. They are called wisdom teeth because they usually appear during a person’s late teens or early twenties, a time when they are believed to have gained some wisdom.

Q: What is the history of wisdom teeth?

A: The history of wisdom teeth dates back to ancient times, where they were often associated with the growth of wisdom and maturity. Different cultures and civilizations have had various beliefs and interpretations about the significance of wisdom teeth.

Q: What is the evolutionary significance of wisdom teeth?

A: Wisdom teeth are believed to have served an important purpose in our ancestors’ diets, as their larger jaws accommodated the extra teeth needed for chewing tough, unprocessed foods. However, as our diets have evolved, the need for wisdom teeth has diminished, leading to various dental issues.

Q: What are wisdom teeth and their function?

A: Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that typically erupt in the back of the mouth. Their function was to assist with chewing and grinding food. However, due to changes in diet and evolution, wisdom teeth may cause complications and often require removal.

Q: Why are they specifically called wisdom teeth?

A: The name “wisdom teeth” may have originated from the time of their eruption, which often coincided with a person’s transition into adulthood, traditionally associated with gaining wisdom. The term has since become a widely used name for this set of molars.

Q: What is the process of wisdom teeth extraction?

A: Wisdom teeth extraction is a common dental procedure that involves the removal of the third molars. It is often necessary due to various complications such as impaction, overcrowding, or infection. The process typically involves anesthesia, surgical removal, and subsequent recovery.

Q: Are there any cultural beliefs or superstitions related to wisdom teeth?

A: Different cultures have different beliefs and superstitions regarding wisdom teeth. Some view them as a sign of good fortune or wisdom, while others associate them with negative omens or consider them to be a rite of passage.

Q: What are the potential complications associated with wisdom teeth?

A: Wisdom teeth can cause various complications, such as impaction, infection, tooth decay, gum disease, and misalignment of surrounding teeth. These issues often necessitate their removal to prevent further dental problems.

Q: What is the process of wisdom teeth extraction like?

A: Wisdom teeth extraction typically involves several steps, including preparation, anesthesia administration, surgical removal, and post-operative care. The process may vary depending on the complexity of the case and the individual’s specific needs.

Q: When is the ideal time to remove wisdom teeth?

A: The timing for wisdom teeth removal depends on various factors, including the position of the teeth, their impact on oral health, and the individual’s overall dental development. Dentists may recommend extraction during late teens or early twenties before potential complications arise.

Q: What should I expect during wisdom teeth removal recovery?

A: After wisdom teeth removal, it is common to experience swelling, discomfort, and limited mouth opening. Following post-operative care instructions, managing pain, and maintaining oral hygiene are crucial for a smooth recovery. It is essential to be aware of potential complications and seek professional dental advice if needed.

Q: Are there any home remedies for wisdom teeth discomfort?

A: There are several home remedies and natural treatments that may help alleviate wisdom teeth discomfort, such as rinsing with warm saltwater, applying cold compresses, using over-the-counter pain relievers, and maintaining good oral hygiene. However, these remedies should not replace professional dental care.

Q: What is the difference between wisdom teeth and molar teeth?

A: Wisdom teeth are the third molars that typically erupt in the back of the mouth during late teens or early twenties. Molar teeth, on the other hand, are the larger, flat teeth towards the rear of the mouth that are used for chewing and grinding food. They have different functions and eruption patterns.

Q: What are some common myths about wisdom teeth?

A: There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding wisdom teeth, such as the belief that everyone needs to have them removed or that their removal always requires surgery. It is important to consult a dental professional to get accurate information and personalized advice.

Jannah Perera
Jannah Perera

Greetings, I'm Jennifer, a devoted social activist with a fervor for creating positive change and fostering new friendships. During my downtime, I relish in the company of my friends. Furthermore, I actively engage in various activities on the internet and social media platforms.

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