Sophia: Hello hello, and welcome to Solved by Science, NBN’s Science and Tech podcast where we answer all the questions that keep you up at night. I'm your host, Sophia. I’m the Science and Tech editor, all that, blah blah, and today, my guest is Harrison. Do you want to introduce yourself?
Harrison: Yeah, I'm Harrison and I have five wisdom teeth.
Sophia: So, my question was why does Harrison have five wisdom teeth? I thought there'd be, you know, a fun thing about this. Turns out, well, not that it's common. You're pretty special. According to Colgate, one to two people in a hundred will have extra wisdom teeth. That's called supernumerary teeth, and this can happen with any kind of tooth, not just wisdom teeth. In general, people have different amounts of wisdom teeth, like 20 to 25% of the human population has anywhere between one to three. This does vary according to race sometimes, for example, Asian Americans are more likely to have less than four wisdom teeth, but I had four, so jokes on me, I guess.
Harrison: That's kind of depressing. You know, I wanted it to be like, “You had five wisdom teeth because you had extra wisdom.” I know that's not how wisdom teeth work. My mom did joke to me about that. She did say, “Maybe you will be less smart and start failing at Northwestern because you were going to get your wisdom teeth taken out,” and I had that extra one, too.
Sophia: So you had them taken out over spring break, right?
Harrison: I did not. I had them taken out over week four. So the weekend between, I believe it was week three and week four, because I live in Milwaukee, which is, on a good day, only about an hour fifteen minute drive away. So I went home over the weekend, and it was Monday. Monday I skipped classes. I got my teeth taken out, and I was thinking, you know, maybe I could go back that Monday afternoon and make some of my afternoon classes. That was a mistake. So I just stayed at home in pain. You know, I'm kind of bleeding all over the place, as one does when they get their wisdom teeth taken out. I did go back Tuesday morning though. I had an 11 a.m. class I made.
Sophia: Why would you ever go to classes when you have a valid excuse to skip?
Harrison: I don't know that. It's because they took the wisdom teeth out, and then I wasn't thinking clearly.
Sophia: What kind of anesthesia did you use? There's a few different kinds of anesthesia that you can be under when you're getting your wisdom teeth extracted. One is local anesthesia, which is where all they do is sort of numb your mouth, which sounds scary. Another one is sedation where they kind of, Mayo Clinic says they suppress your consciousness and that doesn't really put you fully under. That's what general anesthesia does, and that's what happened to me, so I have zero memory of anything.
Harrison: Yeah. I also had general anesthesia, and I can't remember anything either. It was like I fell asleep, and then I woke up. But I will say, when I did go to the to the oral surgeon at first, I was like, yeah, no just use the local anesthesia, pop them out. I thought taking out wisdom teeth was like a 10 minute thing, you know, they just kind of went in with like, some kind of plier-like thing and just popped them out, but I asked, “How long does it take?”
And the guy was like, “Oh, it'll take about 45 minutes, probably longer because you have five,” and I was like, I don't know if I could handle sitting strapped in a chair for 45 minutes in pain like that. And I was thinking about okay, maybe I can do the laughing gas. And he was like, “I strongly recommend you are put under the general anesthesia.” I was like, “Are you serious?” “Like I strongly recommend it.” So I did that, and I guess it was good. I did have to pay out of pocket for that one. I just remember being out; when I woke up, I was singing. Actually that's the first memory I have of waking up is the nurse was telling me I had to stop singing because we were in the office.
Sophia: After I got my wisdom teeth out, I was just in the car and like I don't know why, I just thought it looked really great that my cheeks were that puffy. And I was like, “Oh man, there's blood in my mouth. This is so fun.” I just started Snapchatting everyone.
Harrison: It was it was quite the experience. For anyone who is thinking about getting their wisdom teeth taken out, I would strongly unrecommend it, and I would strongly unrecommend doing it during school.
Sophia: I do. You just miss classes instead.
Harrison: I was in school, but I chose to go to the classes, which meant I had to let go to classes like with an ice pack, you know, my jaw hanging out. I looked like a complete imbecile. Pretty sure like the first thing that pops into someone's mind when they would see that isn't “Hey, look at that kid. He probably just got his wisdom teeth taken out.” It's probably “look at that weirdo with ice bag.” It is kind of those first couple of days that are the worst though.
Sophia: It really is. So back to teeth. Why do we need to get wisdom teeth taken out? Because they're pretty much useless. So next question, why do we have wisdom teeth? Well, back in the day before, you know, we used fire to cook food and processed things and everything, we were eating things like raw meat or roots, things that needed a lot of chewing, so those were super helpful back then, but then we learned how to cook things. And we started evolving so our brains got bigger, but then our jaws got tiny, and now we can't really fit that many teeth in our mouth as well. So when wisdom teeth come in, they’re like impacted and has a lot of potential to cause other problems. So that's why we just rip them out.
Harrison: Yeah, none of my teeth at the time were impacted, which is good. But they like one of them was kind of pointing a weird way. They're like, we should we should get them removed. But it is interesting. I didn't know that about the evolutionary history of humans. That's why they call them wisdom teeth, then, because our brains got bigger, then they didn't fit. I'm just drawing that connection.
Sophia: So, we've been joking around how you know, you take the wisdom teeth out, you no longer have wisdom. Then we were asking why are they called wisdom teeth? It turns out they're basically called wisdom teeth because they come in when you're older and when you're wiser.
Harrison: That sounds like something you tell a four-year-old.
Sophia: Yeah, but multiple websites have said that.
Harrison: I know, and on the Spanish Wikipedia for muelas del juicio or in English, molar of judgment, it kind of gives the same definition like, it just comes at a time when your sense of judgment is more developed.
Sophia: Wisdom teeth are the only type of teeth to develop after birth, but I wouldn't really say it's based on your judgment. I was definitely dumb before, during, after I had my wisdom teeth.
Harrison: I feel that. What other wisdom teeth facts do we have?
Sophia: The oldest person to grow a wisdom tooth was 94 years old according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Maybe that's why one of the articles I found on Colgate was called, “Can wisdom teeth grow back after extraction?” The answer is no. I might have told some people yes earlier. If so, sorry, my bad my mistake. I didn't read the full article at first, and I just assumed if you were asking that kind of thing, it's probably yes.
Harrison: Yeah. I was just about to ask that, can they grow back because it's not a thing I would like to happen more than once.
Sophia: I didn’t feel my wisdom teeth growing in though.
Harrison: Well, just the recovery process after the surgery.
Sophia: Oh, that's all very annoying.
Harrison: I feel bad for that 94-year-old person. I feel like if I was 94, and I needed to get my wisdom teeth taken out, I would just choose to die, because I feel like when you're at 94 – and I know this is science podcast, and this is probably completely false, I mean if you're listening to anything, I've been saying over these last couple of minutes, you've probably come to the conclusion that I'm no scientist – but I feel like once you've reached that age of 94, you can just like choose, “Okay time to die now.” That's what I would do if I found out I had another wisdom tooth, especially because I already went through getting the wisdom teeth taken out already.
Sophia: I was in the class before, philosophy. I found out that if you don't floss, you're not cleaning about 40% of the surface of your teeth, so that just made me really disturbed for the rest of the class, and now I feel like my teeth will never be clean again. So another fun fact, snails have thousands of teeth, that also freaks me out.
Harrison: I did not know that. I didn't think snails had teeth. This changes my opinion of snails a lot.
Sophia: In what way?
Harrison: I don't know. I always thought snails were pretty harmless. Now, I got to be careful with snails. I know that if a snail bit, it probably wouldn't do anything. Those teeth are probably very small, and did it say if it was bone or if it was just kind of…?
Sophia: I'm not sure, but there was an NPR article about it. It was written by someone who also wrote a book about snails. The title of her book is The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. So maybe that has more about snail teeth. I just really hate the illustrations of snails with teeth.
Harrison: That is truly terrifying. That's from like that would be the type of thing you'd see on like Courage the Cowardly Dog.
Sophia: It's also what Sonic looks like with teeth.
Harrison: That’s true, but I don't know, sometimes I feel like what would happen if I was shrunk down, and I was a centimeter tall and then I had to contend with snails with teeth, and they have thousands of them. They'd be like sharks. I highly doubt the probability of this scenario ever occurring.
Sophia: That's just food for thought.
Harrison: Food for thought.
Sophia: On that note, I think we should be wrapping up now. So all of our references are linked down in the transcript, so check that down below. Our intro and outro music is Eve by Dee Yan-Key, which is under a Creative Commons attribution license. Feel free to subscribe to this podcast for more wacky science things. We're on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Play.
Harrison: I'm Harrison.
Sophia: I'm Sophia. See you next time. This is NBN audio.