Last week I got my wisdom teeth torn out of my head. I had gotten my bottom right tooth taken out 5 years ago when it got a monster cavity in it (costing me $450), so this time I only had 3 to lose.
The top two came out surprisingly easily. Within about 10 minutes they popped right out. No problem. But the impacted son-of-a-bitch on my bottom left side took a solid hour and ten minutes! during that entire time all I heard was Elton John crooning through the little boom-box speakers on the counter next to my head, and the crunch of my tooth getting first split in half, then into quarters. He then pulled out a drill and shaved off part of my jaw so that he could dig in deeper to get at the root.
I’ve spent my time since then drugged out of my mind watching the 3rd season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Angel came back from Hell!).
What gets me is why these teeth are called “wisdom” teeth. Clearly if we were designed by some almighty know-it-all he wouldn’t have (in his infinite wisdom) left us with such an idiotic and superfluous bundle of chewing-bones way back in a part of our mouths that just doesn’t have the room for them? That would be dumb! We should call them “stupid teeth”.
Of course, from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes perfect sense why we’ve been left with these monstrosities. As our species evolved from our ape-like ancestors our brains got bigger (along with our noggins), but, strangely, our poor jaws got smaller (for reasons not fully understood).
There are some theories involving the idea that our diet changed over time in such a way as to exclude the need for our 3rd molars (stupid teeth). More meat and oatmeal, less nuts and fibrous, gritty , unprocessed foods. This means that for our paleolithic ancestors, teeth were constantly worn down and would lose overall volume, allowing room for their wisdom teeth to sneak in in their late teens and twenties (or for me at 30).
In a surprisingly large number of adult humans, the wisdom teeth end up massively impacted causing gum infections, riddled with cavities, pushing the rest of the teeth out of their normal position, or some combination of the above. This leads to dentists forcing helpless young men like myself into a dentists chair for a long bout of torture followed by a few weeks of liver-destroying drug use (all without insurance I might add).
Because of our dietary lack of need for these teeth, we could call the wisdom teeth vestigial organs (or organs that are simply useless byproducts of our evolutionary past). But, I’d hesitate to say that given the evidence of dietary changes. If we simply ate differently, they would be useful indeed.
My point? Who knows. I’m all doped up. Back to the Buffy!