Removal of wisdom teeth has become commonplace in western countries. Based on evolutionary training, many dentists assume that wisdom teeth are "vestigial," useless evolutionary left-overs from our simian ancestry when jaws were larger.
When my oldest daughter was 17, even though she was experiencing no adverse symptoms, she was told that her wisdom teeth should be removed before they became a problem. In preparation, the oral surgeon made her watch a video on human evolution, showing that as humans evolved from hypothetical ape-like ancestors, jaw size lessened until now we have no room for these otherwise helpful features. Her experience is replicated many times over, and now the practice has become a billion dollar industry. But is it proper? Is it necessary? And does it demonstrate evolution in action?
A troubling fact has been noted, that in America's former years, people had plenty of room for all their teeth. Even today in non-western societies, a greater percentage still have plenty of room. Does this mean that only Americans are evolving? Are other factors involved?
ICR adjunct professor, Dr. Jack Cuozzo (an orthodontist), has evidence that humans today may be maturing faster than in yesteryear, and our facial bones lack sufficient growth time before wisdom teeth come in. This may be due to growth hormones in food or change since the time of Adam, but room is lacking in many people.
Others cite evidence that a western diet and habits are the cause. In western societies we eat cooked carrots and tenderized beef, whereas diets in other countries demand more rigorous chewing. Actually, in all countries throughout all time diets have been more rigorous with the resulting exercise of the jaw muscles producing greater jaw size and strength. A recent article in a dental journal encouraged mothers to give their children bubble gum to chew (sugarless, of course) in hopes that jaws would grow and teeth would come in straight.
Still others cite poor nutrition and improper hygiene as a cause of gum and bone disease which can force wisdom teeth to erupt in an impacted position. Some studies point at improper sleeping position in infants with continual side or belly sleeping molding the soft facial bones into abnormal shape. The teeth themselves are evidently not the problem.
Recent dental guidelines specify that dentists use caution in recommending removal of wisdom teeth. In many patients the problem is real and must be addressed, perhaps by surgery, but in others, minor manipulation and care can often save healthy teeth.
As far as evolution goes, how can it be said that loss of a useful feature, or loss of room for that feature demonstrates evolution? This is the opposite of evolutionary development! How much better if evolution could explain the origin of structures, not their loss.
And how much misery has unnecessarily been caused by the indiscriminate application of wrong-headed evolutionary thinking. From a creationist viewpoint, wisdom teeth are valuable gifts from the Creator and should not be removed if healthy.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2002. Is Lack of Room for Wisdom Teeth Proof of Evolution?. Acts & Facts. 31 (3).