Could evolution eliminate wisdom teeth for good?

Oct 21, 2020, 11:22 AM
Humans may be on the verge of losing wisdom teeth through evolution. (Photo: Patryk Kosmider/Fotoli...
Humans may be on the verge of losing wisdom teeth through evolution. (Photo: Patryk Kosmider/Fotolia)
(Photo: Patryk Kosmider/Fotolia)

ADELAIDE, Australia — Humans may be on the verge of losing wisdom teeth through evolution. A new study from Australia is claiming that “microevolution” may be responsible.

Less and less wisdom teeth

The conversation is being sparked by a new study published in the Journal of Anatomy. It found that babies are increasingly being born without wisdom teeth.

The study also found other gradual changes, including that the median artery in the forearm, which typically disappears after birth, is sticking around more often.

Some scientists are saying both are a result of microevolution, which at its most basic level, is evolution on a small scale within a single population.

Why the change?

While the increasing disappearance of wisdom teeth may be welcome news to individuals looking to avoid the typical procedure necessary to extract them, it does beg the question of what is causing the sudden change. What attributes caused evolution to kick into high gear?

“As our faces are becoming a lot shorter, we don’t have as much room for our teeth,” explained Doctor Teghan Lucas, a professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, who worked on the study. “This is happening over time because we’ve learned to use fire and learned how to process our foods a lot more.”

Simply put, it’s not as difficult to chew and digest food in 2020 as it was centuries ago.

“So, a lot of people are just born without their wisdom teeth,” she explains. “That’s another example of an anatomical variation that actually is increasing through time.”

Given the changes with wisdom teeth and the median artery are showing up far more often than typical human evolution would suggest, Lucas and her colleagues believe the human race may be evolving faster than it has at any point in the last 250 years.

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Could evolution eliminate wisdom teeth for good?