23 May Jonathan Cartu Announced: Removing wisdom teeth smarts, so why do we have them? –
Supposedly my native intelligence didn’t nose dive when I had two of them removed while I was in the U.S. Army.
On two different occasions I had a young inexperienced Army dentist extract (?) a wisdom tooth.
As a young officer, I believed having the work done in the Army would let me avoid the future cost as a civilian.
Then as the first novice dentist (I was his first wisdom tooth extraction) couldn’t get the impacted tooth out I overheard him discussing the problem with his supervisor. I thought I heard words like “blast it out,” but they settled on a chisel (probably from Sears) and whacked the tooth into bits to remove it.
Yes, that was very unfortunate and probably did not look good in the dentist’s efficiency report — I would not recommend his technique.
Waiting an hour to receive the pain medication from the Army pharmacy coupled with my half hour drive off base to our little mobile home put me about two hours behind the pain curve.
But, with the cost in mind — lieutenants didn’t get paid much and this experience was free — I made another appointment to have the second impacted tooth removed.
Then I discovered the young officer was a recent dental school graduate (it may have been a mail order curriculum) who had also only watched a similar operation.
Sadly, it followed the pattern of the first debacle. He couldn’t wrench the offending tooth out even by standing on the chair and using leverage. So he called for help — fortunately for him I had not been issued a sidearm.
The same supervising dental officer returned to the scene of the crime, shaking his head and questioning his choice of profession. He did a reprise on the earlier process (still no blasting) and released me.
Luckily, I had some pain meds left over from the first adventure so this recovery was not as bad. I probably could have sold the meds for enough money at street value to have paid for an experienced civilian dentist and been happier.
Without looking me in the eye, the consulting dentist at the clinic told me that I only had two wisdom teeth that they could see. I accepted that verdict — more chiseling or blasting was nothing I eagerly anticipated.
However, 30 years later my civilian dentist discovered that I had two wisdom teeth that had been burrowing their way into my sinus cavity and my jaw. The U.S. Army clinic simply chose not to expose their young dentists to the level of stress involved (perhaps they had no training in dental explosives).
This brings us to the obvious question: If wisdom teeth don’t have any relationship to your wisdom, why do we have them? Are they simply an “appendix” in the mouth?
One possible explanation is to provide additional income for our friendly dentists. That doesn’t seem like a good enough reason — most dentists are already well compensated.
So, because nature doesn’t provide most of us with many useless body parts there must have been an original reason (Adam’s extra rib?).
We must journey with a “way back” machine to primitive man (and woman). Fast food restaurants were limited in those days — fast food was a running mammoth — and the meats they ate were tougher than a Texas steak.
Those extra four chompers (molars to those of the dental persuasion) in the back of the mouth aided in the mastication of mastodon steaks and probably primitive broccoli.
However, as we evolved and most of us no longer walk on our knuckles, our brains have grown progressively larger and our face position has moved farther downward and inward.
At about that time we began walking in an upright posture and other changes in our facial structure occurred (primitive women didn’t really look like Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C”).
The protruding jawbones of those Neanderthals gradually retreated, making the jaw shorter and leaving no room for the wisdom teeth.
That leaves us in the 21st century with a few more body parts we no longer have use for — even if you like tough steaks the teeth are tucked back so far they don’t help.
Perhaps in future centuries (if there are any post-COVID-19) wisdom teeth will no longer appear as a part of the human body kit. Or we’ll be back in the Stone Age and wish we had them.