xray showing highlighted wisdom teeth

Are Wisdom Teeth Genetic?

A person’s third set of molars, also known as wisdom teeth, can appear later in life. They usually appear in our early 20s or late teens. That is the age when people can be considered adults, ergo the moniker wisdom teeth. However, it might surprise you that there are people without wisdom teeth, which prompts others to ask, are wisdom teeth genetic? Another related question is: how common is it to not have wisdom teeth? We’ll answer these questions in the discussion below.

If you experience any issues with your wisdom teeth, it’s best to consult with orthodontic specialists. Advanced Orthodontics has seasoned experts who use the latest technologies and techniques to alleviate the pain and discomfort when your third molars begin to grow. We apply custom solutions to provide you with the best care possible.

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Your third molars typically appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Historically, they’ve been labeled wisdom teeth because they often appear when one reaches a mature age. When they come out properly, they can be an added help if you need to chew tougher food.

Some people who grow wisdom teeth only feel minor discomfort when these third molars finally spring up. However, experts from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry confirm that 60% to 70% of patients will experience problems with their wisdom teeth. Some may even require extraction and surgery due to pain and other related dental issues.

Are Wisdom Teeth Genetic?

The short answer is yes, your genetics will have a say in whether or not you will grow wisdom teeth. According to a study published in the Dental Research Journal, around 5% to 37% of people may have one or more third molars missing throughout their lifetimes. If one or both of your parents didn’t have wisdom teeth, there is a chance you won’t have yours as well. However, genetics is only one factor that can influence third molars’ growth or absence.

Factors That Impact Their Growth

Since many people don’t grow wisdom teeth, it is vital to understand the factors that impact their growth. Scientists believe specific influencers may determine whether you’ll develop one or not:

  • Genetics: As stated earlier, genetics play a crucial role in the possible growth of a person’s third molars. We have already shown studies that point to a possible genetic mutation that occurred thousands of years ago, which caused the disappearance of third molars in some people.
  • Environment: We have also shown that people from various ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and environments have fewer occurrences of wisdom teeth in their populations. In some parts of the world, having wisdom teeth may be prevalent, while it is possible for entire people not to have them. It is believed that one’s environment has a 20% to 40% influence on the potential growth of wisdom teeth.
  • Natural Selection: Some studies suggest that as mankind developed smaller jaws over the centuries, those who still grew wisdom teeth experienced pain due to impacted teeth. They felt a lot of pain as a result of this condition. The people who experienced such terrible pain were believed to be less likely to mate and reproduce. Thus natural selection favored ancient people who didn’t grow their third molars.
  • Exposure to External Factors: Studies also suggest that certain external factors, such as certain medications, viruses, and chemotherapy, may have a substantial impact on the development of permanent teeth. These factors can also reduce one’s chances of growing wisdom teeth.
  • Dental Procedures: Some studies suggest that specific dental procedures, such as anesthesia injections, can reduce one’s chances of growing wisdom teeth. Children who get anesthesia injections in their gums early in life, from two to six years of age, may likely not have wisdom teeth.

How Common Is It to Not Have Wisdom Teeth?

After discovering that wisdom teeth are genetic, some people may be prompted to ask how many people don’t have them. Our ancestors grew wisdom teeth to adapt to their world, where they had to chew tougher foods, including some raw food.

This required them to grow larger and stronger mandibles, including a third set of molars to help them eat better. However, as centuries passed, humans learned how to cook and eventually ate softer and easily digestible foods. With the dietary change came genetic adaptations, which made wisdom teeth unnecessary. Human jaws got smaller, and some people no longer have wisdom teeth. Some researchers believe that humans won’t grow them sometime in the future, or at least they will be a rarity in our communities.

The absence of wisdom teeth, known as third molar agenesis, is more pronounced in some cultures and other countries. Studies show that 41% of Koreans, 38.4% of Bangladeshis, and 11.5% of Indians don’t have wisdom teeth. It is also interesting to note that 100% of indigenous Mexicans never grow wisdom teeth.

This slow disappearance of the outburst of wisdom teeth seems to become more prevalent. One study shows 53% of people aged 25 and above only have one wisdom tooth, which supports the theory that wisdom teeth will one day become a thing of the past.

Further, it is also shown that wisdom teeth are more common in women than in men. Studies show that 65.6% of women and only 34.4% of men have had wisdom teeth extracted. However, the trend is changing since more women are likely to have one wisdom tooth missing than men.

Dental Problems Caused by Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth can cause a variety of issues, including the following:

  • Teeth Crowding: Since there isn’t enough space in the mouth, the extra teeth can misalign and move other teeth out of place.
  • Compacting: The molars can get impacted when wisdom teeth grow to cause a lot of pain and damage to other teeth.
  • Gum Disease: Compacted, crowded teeth are more difficult to brush and clean, which can lead to gum disease.
  • Cysts: When teeth are poorly cared for, and the condition goes on for long periods, cysts may form due to damaged, unhealthy teeth.

When to See Specialists

You should consult with specialists when you observe the following symptoms:

  • Swelling jaw
  • Jaw pain
  • Gum or tooth sensitivity or pain
  • Bad breath
  • White fluid coming from molars or other teeth
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Trouble breathing
  • Developing a bad taste in the mouth
  • Bleeding swollen gums
  • Stiff jaw

Consult with Orthodontic Experts

At Advanced Orthodontics, we offer you custom solutions to alleviate any pain or discomfort associated with wisdom teeth problems. Our treatment goal is to restore dental function quickly and comfortably, providing patients with a uniquely caring experience. Call or text (480) 357-4900 today for more information and to schedule an appointment.

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