Third molars are almost exclusively called “wisdom teeth“. There are four of them, and they are the third and last set of molars, located all the way in the back of the mouth. They might either come out in the mouth if there is enough space, or they might stay impacted inside the jaw, which happens pretty often because of lack of space.

It is thought that third molars are called “wisdom teeth” because if they come out, they do at an age when a person is at a wise age. The eruption would occur at the end of a person’s childhood, around the ages of 17 to 25. Those teeth were first called “Teeth of wisdom” in the 17th century, and later “Wisdom teeth” from the 19th century until now.

But often, wisdom teeth stay impacted in the jaw and cause complications if they are not extracted. These problems of infection and inflammation are usually painful and are far from making a person feel wise. Why do wisdom teeth generally stay impacted?

Our ancestors use to have a different diet, consisting of very hard and rough foods. Such a diet caused teeth to wear more rapidly. When a tooth wears down, it becomes smaller. When all the teeth in the mouth become smaller, the whole set of teeth allows the presence of more free space in the mouth for wisdom teeth to come out. Wisdom teeth were then needed to help our ancestors to chew that type of diet, and space was often available for them to come out. But nowadays humans have softer diets, which wears teeth less, and consequently creating less space for third molars to come out.


  1. Wikipedia (Wisdom tooth).
  2. Center Street Dental ( Why are third molars called “wisdom teeth?” Do we need them?).
  3. Dear Doctor ( Why Are They Called “Wisdom” Teeth?).

The information above should be used as a reference only. Any medical decision should not be taken before consulting a health care professional.

The masculine gender may have been more used in the article, but without prejudice, to make reading easier.

Category: Q & A