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November 27, 2010 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Our wisdom teeth need to be pulled because our brains are too big: The Top Ten Daily Consequences of Having Evolved
posted by Huplescat (65 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well that explains why I still have mine!
posted by addelburgh at 5:53 PM on November 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Interesting. I've never met an animal with autism either.
posted by Jodio at 5:58 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, autistic people are often quite good at communicating with animals, so you could say autism is common in animals. But I don't think anyone's written any diagnostic criteria for autism in animals.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:10 PM on November 27, 2010


More like the top consequences of not having evolved enough.

For some of you, anyway. I only have three wisdom teeth so clearly I'm some kind of superhero mutant.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:17 PM on November 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was expecting it to be a miserable experience when I had my wisdom teeth out given how much whining about it I've been exposed to. Turns out that prescription pain killers are AWESOME.
posted by yo! at 6:21 PM on November 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


My wisdom teeth have never been pulled. I am now insecure about my brain size.
posted by jscalzi at 6:22 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the best solution to wisdom teeth evolution could come up with is dentists, I'm becoming a creationist.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:22 PM on November 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Roll your ankles, each of which once connected a front leg to a paw."

Could someone explain this to me? I can't see how what are now our ankles would be part of the front limbs, rather than the rear limbs. Nevermind that MY ankles have surely never connected a front leg to a paw...
posted by luftmensch at 6:22 PM on November 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


In order to promote the evolution of my own species, I shall henceforth refuse to have the children of anybody who has ever had the hiccups.
posted by Mizu at 6:23 PM on November 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Every so often, our intestines find their way through these holes—in the way that noodles sneak out of a sieve—forming an inguinal hernia.

Nononononononononono...
posted by dirigibleman at 6:29 PM on November 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


I have ZERO wisdom teeth, what does THAT mean?
posted by Tikirific at 6:49 PM on November 27, 2010


Is it really because our brains are bigger or because our jaws are poorly developed? My grandparents didn't need their wisdom teeth pulled.
posted by melissam at 6:54 PM on November 27, 2010


ALL Wisdom teeth removed, you can see how smart I am by the painkiller-influenced MetaTalk comments I created.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Roll your ankles, each of which once connected a front leg to a paw."

Could someone explain this to me?


I came to ask this same question. I didn't know we had changed that much...
posted by frobozz at 6:56 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had an inguinal hernia when I was five years old. After surgery, I awoke to find a stitched incision on my lower abdomen and a second incision on the bottom of my balls, with a odd string stretching between the two. Like they just wanted to use one continuous surgical thread for both cuts. I still don't know why it was done that way, but at the time I had to show EVERYBODY at the hospital. Yes, evolution made me a flasher at 5. (Also, a hernia operation at 5 but I didn't get my tonsils out until I was 17?? Something just seemed backwards about that.)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:58 PM on November 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think they're trying to say that we used to have ankles instead of wrists?
posted by muddgirl at 6:59 PM on November 27, 2010


Is it really because our brains are bigger or because our jaws are poorly developed? My grandparents didn't need their wisdom teeth pulled.

Or is it because people used to lose teeth and had enough jaw room for wisdom teeth to serve as replacements and tooth migration kept them useful.
posted by arruns at 7:02 PM on November 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I still have all four of my wisdom teeth. They're right here in a little wooden box on my desk. So much for the big brain theory.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:03 PM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


My father and sister were born without wisdom teeth. grumble grumble lucky...
posted by infinitewindow at 7:04 PM on November 27, 2010


My wisdom teeth have never been pulled. I am now insecure about my brain size.

The same thing jumped out at me. I've spent all these years trying to convince dentists not to pull them, but maybe that's just my stupid, small brain making me afraid.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:06 PM on November 27, 2010


Re wisdom teeth
Speculation and work done by dentists, paleontologists and other investigators have helped explain the evolutionary changes observed in the size, shape and position of teeth in people from early hominids to modern humans.4,5 In modern people, third molars have the highest frequency of polymorphism, malposition in the dental arches, impaction and agenesis.6,7 Approximately 65 percent of the human population has at least one impacted third molar at 20 years of age,8 and third molars that do erupt frequently are mal-posed in the arches and consequently are difficult to clean. These aberrations in third molar patterning may be related to the shortening of the jaws that occurred in people over time.9,10 However, the reasons these aberrations occur and the mechanisms that control them remain elusive.11–13
posted by melissam at 7:08 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wisdom teeth never grew. Does that mean I am evolved?
posted by typewriter at 7:08 PM on November 27, 2010


Tikirific: I have ZERO wisdom teeth, what does THAT mean

Zero wisdom?
posted by paisley henosis at 7:10 PM on November 27, 2010


My wife had to have her wisdom teeth as she says jackhammered out of her skull when she was in her early twenties. Apparently common.

I met and hooked up with her when this had already happened and I was 19. When I was 24 or so this subject came up and she said "Well, everybody has to have them out." At which point I reminded her I had been living with her through the entire time when they should come in, and I hadn't been able to afford to go to the dentist. She actually made me open my mouth so she could count my teeth. Total = 32. "You lucky bastard," was her pronouncement. My wisdom teeth came in perfectly straight and nicely aligned with plenty of room, just like the other 28.

If only my pancreas had worked so well.
posted by localroger at 7:17 PM on November 27, 2010


Serious answer to the no wisdom teeth people: my wife's wisdom teeth never came in and the dentist said that it was totally fine and that they were there, in her head, but if they hadn't breached the gums by now that they never would. He said it wasn't uncommon and was nothing to worry about.

He did say that a gum infection could easily get to those living teeth, though, and that that would require them to be extracted from below the gum line, so if your wisdom teeth never came in: be on guard against gum disease and infection.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:21 PM on November 27, 2010


another one with straight wisdom teeth :)
posted by liza at 7:31 PM on November 27, 2010


Solon and Thanks: "More like the top consequences of not having evolved enough.

For some of you, anyway. I only have three wisdom teeth so clearly I'm some kind of superhero mutant.
"

We are matching superhero mutants! I only had three wisdom teeth myself. Had to have them removed, but still. Only three!
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 7:35 PM on November 27, 2010


Soooo, what I took away from this article is that we really need to have our fur back. Sure, we may end up spending more on tick and flea treatments, but it's a necessary sacrifice. Also, babies would be cuter.

Apparently we also need to go back to walking on all fours. I'm not so sure about that, though. It might be good for my back, but it seems like it would be hard on my hands. I'd already be getting a flea and tick bath once a week, I don't want to have to constantly be washing and moisturizing my hands because I trod in something gross or went running on gravel.

I have a theory that I'm good at identifying people who have had their wisdom teeth out because, post extraction, the jaw changes slowly to become narrower and more tapered. Maybe this theory is bunk, I don't know. My English relatives lead me to believe that having your wizzies out is pretty much standard practice in the UK, given that it's all paid for by the National Health Service, leading to a kind of common face shape that is slightly elfin.
posted by Ritchie at 7:40 PM on November 27, 2010


I've had three pulled, but none of them hurt.

So I'm smart and tough.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:43 PM on November 27, 2010


Of course I hear tales of villages in the North Of England where having ALL your teeth taken out and replaced with dentures was just Good Sense some time ago.

To which I say...yeah.
posted by The Whelk at 7:45 PM on November 27, 2010


That was actually what my mum did. Seems like, faced with a lifetime of crappy teeth, people just had them all pulled. Seems incredible to me. I've been lucky with my teeth, but I've also been pretty assertive about telling my dentists that extraction is a last resort. Mostly because I'm a massive coward when it comes to surgery.
posted by Ritchie at 7:49 PM on November 27, 2010


"Roll your ankles, each of which once connected a front leg to a paw."

11. The innate language abilities of Homo Sapiens Sapiens created a conundrum: Because of their innate ability to produce spoken and written language and the ease with which they create and consume both h sapiens sapiens lacks engagement when producing or consuming language. They pay little attention to what they say or write and less to what they hear or read.
posted by vapidave at 7:53 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's another fun daily consequence of having evolved: you gnash your morning bagel with a mouth full of fish scales.

Or, to be more precise about it, your teeth are structurally homologous to the dermal armor that covered and protected ancient bony fishes from the depredations of the dread invertebrates of ancient oceans. Lots of cites for this; here's one I turned up in a couple minutes of desultory Googling.
posted by killdevil at 7:54 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always assumed that wisdom teeth were backup molars for when primitive humans lost teeth (probably from trying to eat a rock), so they could, ya know, continue eating (something other than rocks.)
posted by R_Kamidees at 7:55 PM on November 27, 2010


I have all my wisdom teeth, and I can put a billiard ball in my mouth (and remove it) my hat size is also very large. Smart... Not so much...
posted by mrgroweler at 8:00 PM on November 27, 2010


i don't remember having my wisdom teeth pulled, but i remember my oldest sons pulled, that procedure left him hurting for a long time. i guess it's important to have them pulled as soon as they appear in ones mouth.
posted by tustinrick at 8:00 PM on November 27, 2010


"Roll your ankles, each of which once connected a front leg to a paw."

They're just saying, "Hey, feel those down there? They also used to be up there too."
posted by hermitosis at 8:12 PM on November 27, 2010


Also, Dentists love me. Apparently own crooked and turned configuration of teeth is just enough to look bad, but somehow has self-balanced against causing trouble, like if the stones is a bad structure just carefully placed themselves to avoid collapse. Apparently my enamel is harder then you'd expect and my saliva way more antibody then it should be, which could account for the NO CAVITIES EVER despite 26 years of very sporadic dental care or doctor invention.

Yet my brush every-day dentist 4 times a year flouride treatment brother? 12 fillings and counting.

woo genetics.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 PM on November 27, 2010


My father and sister were born without wisdom teeth


You were born with them already in?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:17 PM on November 27, 2010


"Roll your ankles, each of which once connected a front leg to a paw."

This explains my total inability to play any sport. Or dance. Or walk. And why I type with my abnormally large penis.
posted by Splunge at 8:18 PM on November 27, 2010


"You were born with them already in?"

Yes. You are born with the teeth you have.

There is an overall trend for fewer teeth in human populations. I was born with 6 fewer potential teeth than "normal." Zero wisdom teeth, and two less lower incisors.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:25 PM on November 27, 2010



Yes. You are born with the teeth you have.

I find mouth x-rays of children whose adult teeth have not yet grown in to be one of the creepiest, most disturbing things ever. Those teeth, floating back there beyond the other ones where nothing should be...brrr
posted by frobozz at 8:35 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had all four wisdom teeth removed a year or two ago, but had absolutely no pain whatsoever. In fact, it was a pleasant experience and one I would gladly go through again.

I think I had them out around 10AM, and they did it under anesthesia so they gave me laughing gas before the actual shot. I can't stand needles or the thought of someone pricking me with a gleaming piece of metal, but at the time I remember being really happy about the idea and enthusiastically offering them my left arm.

By 4 PM I was just fine, could eat anything I wanted, no pain whatsoever.
posted by DMan at 8:48 PM on November 27, 2010


I was ready for the pain.

I hadn't seen a dentist in 8 years and I was ready, nay, willing and able to accept the pain of being a Bad Civilized Person and letting my Oral Health slip away for things like food and shelter. This was going to be punishment, for sure, a complete take-down of my life and choices to this point. All would be revealed, via X-Ray.

Then Surprise! My teeth are fine. Better then fine actually, which is ..notable, when WAS your last visit exactly? Hm. But hey, all's fair and fine and oh wait one second. You've got like big wisdom teeth. Really big wisdom teeth, I don't like the look of that, your mouth is crowded already and pretty ..balanced, these really shouldn't be allowed to pull up stakes and go wandering. I think the word "facial paralysis" was used? The word surgery?

So I pay for it. In cash. It's actually not that much considering, again, super-teeth. Could be so much worse. But it's extraction, you know. Literally pulling something out of your body. I was nervous, but like I said, I was ready for the pain. I deserved it.

So I go and make the two subway transfers (fuck the G) and I get there and I get shot up with drugs and you know what? No pain. Really. Okay, some pain was kinda later, but I got a script for some cheap pain killers and cause my doctor is kinda ...lets say awesome, upped it a bit and gave me a re-fill. 2 weeks, 4 teeth, and I didn't feel a twinge of pain.

Except what I wasn't expecting, what didn't occur to me, what to this day I can recall in vivid detail?

The sound a heavy tooth on metal on bone as it's being slowly rotated out of your jaw and the feel of its long, thick root as it comes out.
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had my first three wisdom teeth removed (along with a regular molar and both my upper incisors -- the incisors never came in) before I got my braces, in two surgeries with general anesthesia.

But my last wisdom tooth didn't come out until my mid-twenties, and that was just Novocaine. I was amazed at how quickly it went. He just drilled into it and yanked it right out! Then he said, "that's weird." Apparently I had a sharp jaw, which they shaved down so it wouldn't cut my tongue.

Anyway, I lost 5 pounds in the next few days because I could only eat soft foods and the only soft food I had was apple sauce and ice cream.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:25 PM on November 27, 2010


"Hiccups no longer serve a function..."

Someone once told me that babies hiccup in the womb, which exercises and strengthens their diaphragm muscles so that they are strong enough to breath after they are born.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:14 PM on November 27, 2010


With all this talk about wisdom teeth, I want to share mine. The oral surgeon told me that I was really lucky that he was able to make such a clean extraction.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:33 PM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've got one wisdom tooth left. My dentist wants to take it out, but I'm saving it for growing limbs and stuff once the future finally gets here.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:33 PM on November 27, 2010


I find mouth x-rays of children whose adult teeth have not yet grown in to be one of the creepiest, most disturbing things ever.

No kidding. I always thought they grew grew in, like hair on a bald baby or something. I'll have to look for some of those xrays.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:43 PM on November 27, 2010


Children are aliens.

(Scroll down -- if you dare.)
posted by maudlin at 11:49 PM on November 27, 2010


All four of my wisdom teeth were immense, impacted and an absolute dog to extract. The dentist had to cut two of them into pieces to get them out. I am therefore more evolved than any of you monkeys. Show respect. Bananas accepted.
posted by Decani at 1:46 AM on November 28, 2010


I think having to give birth through the pelvis would rate higher than many of these.
posted by Segundus at 2:34 AM on November 28, 2010


The Whelk, your description of having you wisdom teeth out matches my experience rather closely, except that you don't mention that you remember the distinct smell of burnt tooth dust from the drilling.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:44 AM on November 28, 2010


Burnt tooth dust smells like cinnamon.

My wisdom teeth were removed because they were moving all my teeth closer together. Which was okay for my bottom jaw, because they could just move, but I had two teeth pulled and four root canals across the front top six, with a permanent bridge put in. Which meant that when the wisdom teeth tried to move my other teeth, they came right up against the bridge and I could feel the pressure against my teeth.

So out came the wisdom teeth. And I slept through most of it, because they gave me the awesome drugs. And then, I went to see X-Men, and I wasn't sure if I loved it because it was a great movie or because I was on ridiculously great drugs. So I had to see it again. And again. Just to be sure.

This is not a sign of a large evolved brain.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:29 AM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article is like many internet articles: has just enough fact to sound true, but is otherwise so grossly oversimplified and written by someone who didn't have a strong grasp of the concepts involved that, as a whole, it's badly wrong.

The 'ankles' mistake (ankles are the hocks of other critters, and yes, they're on the rear limb) almost seems like less a typo than the author not knowing what is what.

Forexample, the understanding of the trachea and intestines are both....half-right, sort of.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:45 AM on November 28, 2010


I had all five of my wisdom teeth taken out; the bottom two were sideways, and the top three crooked.

My wife has only one wisdom tooth, and it still hasn't popped out, even though she's 36. Our son is still a toddler; time will tell how many he winds up with.
posted by fings at 7:01 AM on November 28, 2010


This thread is reminding me of the time the dentist slapped me for screaming too loudly and scaring other patients in the waiting room (I was 5). Needless to say, I haven't been too fond of dentists since.
posted by desjardins at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2010


So nobody jumps in about evolution; metafilter's got no creationists? Or is it because it's Sunday and they're busy?
posted by jscott at 7:09 AM on November 28, 2010


Forexample, the understanding of the trachea and intestines are both....half-right, sort of.

Could you elaborate? I'm curious what the article got wrong.
posted by mediareport at 8:01 AM on November 28, 2010


I have not even mentioned male nipples.

You're not using them right.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:05 AM on November 28, 2010


I've long been fascinated by the fact that we're not modern creatures, but rather a chaotic sculptural history book of engineering workarounds, sort of like the Bible, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and the three major operating systems out there.

There are the obvious things, the appendix and the blind spot, and they're worth looking into, but for me, the animal response to the thirty-five or so seconds in American In Paris where the strings boil up in this soaring, sinuous mass of glorious chords rising over a bustling city built of bass notes and syncopated percussion tattering around like bicycles in rain is what really made me start to think.

I've listened to that piece literally thousands of times since finding that place in it thirty years ago, and there is almost no phrase in it that's not hard-coded into my memory by now, and yet, when the notes do that little descent before the build-up, every hair starts to rise, and everywhere there's no hair becomes a pebbled beach of gooseflesh, and there's just this almost unbearable charge, and a sort of electricity at play, in that instant of ecstatic transcendence. Back in the nineties, I read somewhere that goosebumps are a mechanism that used to raise hackles and hair in a response to fear, alert, and alarm, as well as a way to reconfigure the fur when it's cold, and it struck me as odd that George Gershwin's magical work for orchestra would make me feel cold or feel like I needed to fluff my fur to make me look bigger.

USE ONLY AS DIRECTED, the instructions always tell us, like each thing in the world is only made to be used one way, or that it was made for us at all. It should make us feel small, maybe, that we're just where we are because this is where we landed in the awe-inspiring cosmic whirl of evolution at work. How sad it is that so many people think of humanity as something designed in one shot and shelved for sale like ranks and ranks of neatly boxed toaster ovens suited only to the task for which they were made. There are all sorts of epiphany points in our lives, but one of my best was that very second when I came out of a haze of presumption and into the light of how things are, a naked beast short-circuiting fight-or-fight instincts into the selfsame presence of the divine, as I see it, shivering in the new world where things are not what I thought they were, because they are so very much better.

When you think you're someone placed here for use as directed, perfect except for your inability to master your overt gifts and to avoid the long cautionary list on the owner's manual for your soul, it's terrifying to look out over the brink, standing in the open mouth of the cave where you came into the world, and to see the distant horizon and all it contains.

The strict grammarians of the world regard our language, for instance, as a cut-and-dried deal, with clear rules and obvious boundaries. The poets, on the other hand, are content to play, to twist and hammer and tease out strings of meaning like taffy, letting them fold and melt into each other, exploring reality like we do before we're told to USE ONLY AS DIRECTED.

I take in the world and I don't always feel like I think I should. I find humor in the midst of horrors, and sorrow like the strata of old smoke in a room where everyone's laughing, and joy in the emptiest places, where nothing in the world is happening, except for neurons clattering away in some part of my lower brain that was built for reptilian bookkeeping six hundred million years ago. The days trickle by, and I wonder

Where does love come from? Joy? Longing?

Why does the popcorn scent of my dogs' feet make me feel safe and contented?

Do I feel like this because of something real, or because a billion years ago, a fish lucked out and had a little mutation in its brain that made it curious about certain long-forgotten things in a sea that dried out a hundred million years later?


What part of my brain covers my love of Gershwin? Is it something that happened recently, a mutation in modern Americans caused by the volatile organics in the lacquer finish on Ford Model Ts that changed us some time in the twenties? You let it sink in, how layered and complicated our physical selves are, if you're relaxed enough to believe that we are layered and complicated, and it's like finding out that language isn't just a way of communicating, and it isn't something that can be laid out once for everyone, like multiplication tables.

So the strings start to boil up from the underground of a metaphorical Parisian scene, and you just put your arms out, feeling the way those waves of animal alarm ripple out from the small of your back where your hackles would have been so many lifetimes ago, and you smile a gentle smile that itself comes from some instinct to show your teeth, and Gershwin doesn't make you want to fight and flee, per se, but you still surrender to the wordless ecstatic embrace of it.

If I was covered with feathers, this is when they'd be spreading out, flexing like the flaps on an airplane waiting for its turn on the runway, when I'd feel the slow-twitch muscles in my thighs churning into life like turbines or the machinery that propels antelopes across the grassy plains, and I'd wait for that signal that—

GO!

I can't fly, of course, so I sit back, reach out, and find the keys that lie in front of me, coded to an alphabet that came about for entirely other reasons and for a tongue that's itself a swiftly changing mechanism for exchanging information, and I let myself run, hoping I'll catch the wind just right in this flurry of worldwide ones-and-zeroes and lift myself, however briefly, from the plain.
posted by sonascope at 8:06 AM on November 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


Also they didn't let me keep my teeth which annoyed me cause

1) I wanted to make them into cufflinks, Great Gatsby anyone?

2) You know the kind of crazy sympathetic magic you can do with teeth?
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 AM on November 28, 2010


All this about our evolving brains changing our teeth, but no mention of what its done to our Vaginas!

Over the past 5 million years our brains have tripled in size
. However, due to an apparent competing need to walk upright on two legs, our vaginas and pelvises have remained sleek and ancient.

(and unlike the monkeys (scroll up), our vaginas and pelvises often turned deadly on us in the not-so-unlikely event of a breach, transverse or merely the above mentioned large-brain infant delivery).
posted by dongolier at 9:48 AM on November 28, 2010


My wisdom teeth (only on the top, removed one at a time because they were rotten, not impacted, and why bother to put fillings in them?) were black at the roots. Despite the previous parenthetical remark, this is not because there was anything wrong with them. I took tetracycline for acne as a teenager (when your wisdom teeth are developing) and turns out tetracycline can stain growing teeth black. It's are contraindicated for children and pregnant women for this very reason - you don't want developing teeth turning black.
posted by maryr at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2010


So nobody jumps in about evolution; metafilter's got no creationists? Or is it because it's Sunday and they're busy?

There's one, and when she speaks up everyone just snickers and tells her to shush.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:17 AM on November 28, 2010


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