Mar
09
2006

Wisdom Teeth Have Some Value After All

Have you had your wisdom teeth pulled? I have. And they were impacted. Not on my list of all time favorite memories — in fact, having teeth pulled is one of my least favorite things to do.


Wisdom teeth: Earliest known impacted wisdom tooth. Digital radiograph (X-ray) of the mandible of Magdalenian Girl showing impaction of the right lower third molar (wisdom tooth). New high-quality radiographic imaging of the entire Magdalenian Girl skeleton, which is

Apparently, it was also not a favorite thing to do for the "Magdalenian Girl" (also known as the Cap Blanc skeleton), a nearly complete 13,000- to 15,000-year-old skeleton excavated in France in 1911and acquired by The Field Museum in 1926. To be fair, the pulling of wisdom teeth may not have been possible for her, but it turns out that her wisdom teeth are proving very valuable.

It had been previously believed that the Magdalenian Girl was under the age of 18 at the time of her death because her wisdom teeth had not grown in, which usually happens between the ages of 18 and 22 (I was 20). But after a new analysis of the skull, scientists now believe the Magdalenian Girl was actually between the ages of 25 and 35 when she died. This new theory has come about after looking at new digital X-rays (such as the one pictured) which show that the Magdalenian Girl's wisdom teeth were impacted.

So, why is that a big deal? Impacted wisdom teeth are thought to be the result of dietary changes that occurred in past human cultures. It is believed that impacted wisdom teeth were not common during the stone ages because the food that people ate at that time required them to chew more and chew more vigorously. This more intense chewing would have resulted in increased jawbone growth, which in turn creates more room for the wisdom teeth to grow in. When the diet changed to foods that required less forceful chewing the jawbone was not stimulated to grow as much, making less room for wisdom teeth when the time came for them to grow in. So, the fact that Magdalenian Girl has impacted wisdom teeth tells scientists that the diet of her time period would have already changed.

The skeleton of the Magdalenian Girl, the most complete Upper Paleolithic skeleton available for study in North America, is a part of the new permanent exhibition at the Field Museum called Evolving Planet. If you happen to see the exhibition, make sure you also check out the Kristi Curry Rogers' Rapetosaurus krausei also on display in the exhibition. Kristi is the Science Museum of Minnesota's Curator of Paleontology.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i agree that it isnt okay because i believe its pieces of other peoples bodys. i think bodys of both humans AND animals should be left to rest in peace. if you want to learn more about aging of bones start by asking people if you can use their bodys after they die for scientific experimentation

posted on Fri, 03/24/2006 - 12:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i dont think they have value now but i do think they have had value in the past

posted on Fri, 03/24/2006 - 12:25pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

OK, so what does it mean if you don't have any wisdom teeth? X-rays show that I don't have any. And one of my brothers not only doesn't have any wisdom teeth, but he still has some of his baby teeth. There aren't any adult teeth underneath to push them out. Extra-highly-evolved? Or just freaks? :)

posted on Fri, 03/10/2006 - 12:06pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i believe it is reasonable to learn about her by her bones because she died so many years ago and it gives us insight into how we developed without hurting anyone.

posted on Sun, 03/26/2006 - 2:47pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

I actually had three sets of teeth - baby teeth, adult teeth, and then a row of undeveloped pieces of calcification. I had all of the third "set" removed when I was 9, along with many of my baby teeth (9 teeth and 17 pieces of calcification). So does have more or fewer teeth indicate a higher evolutionary status? ;)

posted on Fri, 03/10/2006 - 1:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think its just wrong to dig up somewones bones or use them for display\r\n

posted on Wed, 03/15/2006 - 11:17am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow...interesting fact...i'm currently in a dental hygiene program and found out that i had impacted wisdom teeth from my xrays...cRaAzy! how our jawbone can't fit all our teeth nowaways

posted on Mon, 11/13/2006 - 12:38pm
jdudejam's picture
jdudejam says:

Wow, Cool!

posted on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 4:11pm
Dr. D.C. Reeves's picture

Everyone interested in wisdom teeth should somehow get to check that museum. Different people have different belief on whether wisdom tooth is important. But it is just equally reasonable knowing that a history lies beneath all these too.

posted on Thu, 01/08/2009 - 6:48am
Dr. Hamfrey Portland's picture

It's interesting to see dental evolutionary changes in humans. With this single X-ray, we can already come up with a lot of findings regarding pre-historic lifestyle and of course, scientific implications.

posted on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:53am
Ernest Wong's picture

Very interesting! I did not hear this from my dental school lectures!

posted on Thu, 06/25/2009 - 11:56pm
Benjamin Auron's picture
Benjamin Auron says:

I just got my wisdom teeth removed. It was a horrible experience getting them out. But I enjoyed the recovery due to the excessive amounts of vicodin I was taking. Oh baby that vicodin can hit the spot!

posted on Fri, 06/26/2009 - 12:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Vicodin is an addictive drug, like cocaine or heroine :)

posted on Sat, 06/27/2009 - 4:16pm
Connor Hintzen's picture
Connor Hintzen says:

My tweleve-year-old-molers are coming in.They hurt bad.Why just the day i bit down on somthing hard.My moler was coming in two ways.Then the center of the moler was my gum.Then when i bit dow on that hard thing then the center gum ripped into one strip of gum.Let me tell you it isnt fun.Most people i ask wo has them grown in say that their tweleve-year-old-molers didn't bug them when they were coming in.

posted on Sat, 06/27/2009 - 11:35am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I also had a very bad experience. I was not on any after meds and was not put under for the procedure. I honestly can say it was worse than child birth. Some people beg to differ

posted on Sat, 06/27/2009 - 12:05pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

my kid had an extra front tooth growing right in his gap. He had to get it removed it has no adult tooth underneath.

posted on Sat, 06/27/2009 - 12:10pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I had my 2 lower one's removed and it was very painful. They might have had some importance in the past, but I have no room to save them in my mouth.

posted on Fri, 07/03/2009 - 5:10pm

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