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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 683-684  

Like appendix like third molars: Vestigial organs?

Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, ACPM Dental College, Dhule, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication10-Sep-2015

Correspondence Address:
Ujwala Rohan Newadkar
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, ACPM Dental College, Dhule - 424 003, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-2870.164946

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How to cite this article:
Newadkar UR. Like appendix like third molars: Vestigial organs?. Med J DY Patil Univ 2015;8:683-4

How to cite this URL:
Newadkar UR. Like appendix like third molars: Vestigial organs?. Med J DY Patil Univ [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Jan 17];8:683-4. Available from:


The third molars are the last teeth to erupt in the oral cavity. Since they erupt at about the time when the youth goes off into the world to become wise, they referred to as "wisdom teeth". The word wisdom tooth is derived from Latin word dens sapientiae. In many Spanish speaking countries, it is called as the molar of judgment. This is because when they appear, the person is considered to have better judgment ability than that of a child. Turkish refers the third molar directly to the age at which wisdom teeth appear and calls it 20 yas disi, which means 20th year tooth.[1]

For scientific fields such as anthropology and genetics, third molars are of much importance because they play an important role to the understanding of the process of evolution. Due to biological, cultural, and evolutionary changes with time, humans have experienced a decreased dependency on all tooth types. This is especially the case where third molars are concerned. A major conclusion of evolution is that the human jaw has shrunk from its much larger ape size to the smaller modern human size as humans evolved. In short, evolution has produced "an increase in brain size at the expense of jaw size".[2]

Research now indicates that the reasons for most third molar problems today are not the evolutionary changes, but something else. These reasons include a change from a coarse abrasive diet to a soft western diet, lack of proper dental care, and genetic factors, possibly including mutations. The "wisdom teeth" or last molars or rudimentary teeth, are in man, approaching a vestigial condition since they generally do not appear until relatively late, between the ages of 20 and 30 years, and in many persons are never cut at all. In a large percentage of individuals, they are useless, and they often become impacted and have to be removed surgically.[3] The loss of an organ in evolution purely as a result of disuse, also called Lamarckian evolution, has now been thoroughly disproved. The belief that wisdom teeth are vestigial organs that lack a function in the body (as was previously believed for the appendix) is less common today but still evident. Another problem cited for their removal is the possibility of cysts and tumors developing in the sac surrounding an impacted wisdom tooth.[4],[5]

Wisdom teeth many a times get impacted, exhibit extreme diminution in size and also show agenesis as a final step toward their ultimate disappearance from our dentition, possibly. As time goes by, agenesis of the third molars is increasing, so they can be considered as vestigial.

  References Top

Kaur B, Sheikh S, Pallagatti S. Radiographic assessment of agenesis of third molars and para-radicular third molar radiolucencies in population of age group 18-25 years old – A radiographic survey. Arch Oral Res 2012;8:13-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
MacGregor AJ. The Impacted Lower Wisdom Tooth. New York: Oxford University Press; 1985. p. 5.  Back to cited text no. 2
Rogers JS, Hubbell T, Byers C. Man and the Biological World. New York: McGraw Hill; 1942. p. 313.  Back to cited text no. 3
Dachi SF, Howell FV. A survey of 3,874 routine full-month radiographs. II. A study of impacted teeth. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1961;14:1165-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
Mourshed F. A roentgenographic study of dentigerous cysts. I. Incidence in a population sample. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1964;18:47-53.  Back to cited text no. 5


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