Every year, people all around the world have wisdom tooth surgery. Although it’s a common procedure, not many people know a lot about their wisdom teeth. If you have an upcoming wisdom tooth removal or are simply curious, learn how wisdom teeth got their name and why we have them.

The name “wisdom tooth” is said to come from a variety of backgrounds. It may be from the Dutch who call a wisdom tooth “verstandskiezen”, which translates to far standing tooth. “Verstand” can be translated to mean mind or wisdom as well. Others attribute the name to writings in Latin which call the tooth “dens sapientiae”, which translates directly to the wisdom tooth. Or the name simply may have come about when human ancestors noticed the teeth grew in around the same time kids matured and gained wisdom.

Wisdom teeth are the third molars back from the front of your face. But why do they take so long to erupt? Tooth development takes place in a specific order over a course of years. The first molar erupts around the age of six, the second molar around the age of 12, and wisdom teeth usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 25.

Unfortunately, because human jaws have become smaller over time, most people don’t have room for their wisdom teeth. So, if most people don’t have room for these molars, you may ask why do we have them? One theory on why we have wisdom teeth is that these teeth come from an ancestor to modern humans who had larger jaws, thus being able to accommodate an extra tooth. On the other hand, another theory says that humans would require this tooth to erupt in the past to replace a lost tooth. Either way, it is assumed wisdom teeth had some use in the past. However, more and more people are born without their wisdom teeth.

If people don’t have room in their mouth for their wisdom teeth, they often need to undergo wisdom tooth extraction or impacted tooth surgery. Due to the lack of space, wisdom molars can become impacted or blocked by the other teeth surrounding them because they don’t have enough room to emerge or develop like the others around.

So, while humans don’t necessarily need wisdom teeth, many people still see them develop in their early adult years. If your wisdom teeth begin to erupt, it’s important to contact an experienced oral surgeon to ensure your wisdom teeth don’t disturb the teeth around them.