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Wisdom Teeth, Part II

May 22, 2007

A listener asks: Why do some people fail to get wisdom teeth?


The case of the missing wisdom teeth. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Debbie from Menlo Park, California, emailed us to ask why she never got any wisdom teeth. Well, Debbie, we asked Tim Bromage of New York University’s School of Denistry, and he says it could be a genetic quirk, or simply that your jaw’s too small. Bromage explains that our adult molars sprout from a kind of tissue in the jawbone called the dental lamina. As the jawbone grows, the dental lamina tissue slowly burrows its way through it, budding off teeth along the way.

So it’s entirely possible to miss the development of the third molar, only because the bone was never able to grow far enough back.

…That’s not uncommon in industrialized countries. Because we grow up eating soft, processed food, we’re not exercising our jaws very much, and as a result, the muscles and bones don’t always reach full size.

I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.