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The Role of Genetics in Wisdom Teeth Development and Impaction


Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set at the back of the mouth. While they can serve a functional purpose in chewing, many people experience issues with their wisdom teeth, including impaction. Genetics plays a significant role in how wisdom teeth develop and whether they become impacted. This article delves into the genetic aspects of wisdom teeth development and impaction and addresses frequently asked questions.


Understanding Wisdom Teeth Development


Before delving into the genetic factors, let’s first understand the basics of wisdom teeth development. Wisdom teeth typically begin to form in early childhood, but they don’t erupt until late adolescence or early adulthood, usually between the ages of 17 and 25.


The Genetic Influence


Family History:


Genetics is pivotal in determining whether an individual will develop wisdom teeth and how they will erupt. A family history of impacted wisdom teeth can increase the likelihood of experiencing similar issues. In addition to genetics, other factors can also contribute to the development and eruption of wisdom teeth. One such factor is the size and shape of the jaw. If the jaw is too small or doesn’t have enough space, it can cause the wisdom teeth to become impacted or grow at an angle. Additionally, certain environmental factors, such as nutrition and oral hygiene practices, can influence wisdom teeth’ development and eruption.


Jaw Size and Shape:


The size and shape of a person’s jaw are hereditary. Individuals with smaller jaws may be more prone to impaction because there is insufficient space for wisdom teeth to emerge properly. Furthermore, the position of adjacent teeth can also affect the eruption of wisdom teeth. If the surrounding teeth are misaligned or crowded, it can create obstacles to the proper growth and eruption of wisdom teeth.

Wisdom Teeth Impaction


Impaction occurs when the jaw has insufficient space for wisdom teeth to grow normally. This can lead to various complications, including pain, infection, and damage to neighboring teeth. Genetics can contribute to the likelihood of impaction in several ways:

Inherited Jaw Structure:

If a person inherits a small jaw structure from their parents, there is a higher chance of impaction because the jaw may not have adequate space for wisdom teeth to emerge. The angle at which the wisdom teeth grow can also affect impaction. If the teeth grow at an angle that is not aligned with the rest of the teeth, they may become stuck or impacted. Regular dental check-ups and X-rays can help identify potential impaction issues before they cause significant problems.

Tooth Angle:

The angle at which wisdom teeth grow can be influenced by genetics. Teeth that grow at an angle may become impacted more frequently. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause various problems, including pain, infection, and damage to adjacent teeth. In some cases, impacted wisdom teeth may need to be surgically removed to prevent further complications.

Tooth Size:

The size of wisdom teeth can also be genetically determined. More prominent wisdom teeth in a smaller jaw can lead to impaction. Impacted wisdom teeth can also cause crowding and misaligning of other teeth in the mouth. This can result in the need for orthodontic treatment to correct the alignment issues caused by the large size of the wisdom teeth. Additionally, the jaw size can affect how easily wisdom teeth erupt, with smaller jaws often having less space for these teeth to come in properly.

Geographical differences in wisdom teeth prevalence

The prevalence of third molar agenesis (the absence of wisdom teeth) appears to show geographical differences; however, interpreting the data is complicated as agenesis includes lacking one or more wisdom teeth. One study of third molar agenesis in Bangladeshi patients that had a review summary of other populations showed that the prevalence of third molar agenesis in the Bangladeshi population was relatively high (38.4%) in comparison to other countries (e.g., India 11.5%) but not as high as among Koreans (41%). Elsewhere, it has been reported that 100% of indigenous Mexicans have third molar agenesis. A more recent review study said that the worldwide rate of third molar agenesis is 22.63%, with estimates in the analysis ranging from 5.32% to 56.0%. They noted geographical differences and reported that women were more likely to have at least one missing wisdom tooth than men were.

The variations are perhaps most clearly illustrated by prevalence data for North America. It has been estimated that 10-25% of Americans with European ancestry, 11% of African Americans, and 40% of Asian Americans are missing at least one wisdom tooth. While 45% of Inuit indigenous people in the arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland have at least one missing wisdom tooth.


Factors That Impact Their Growth

Since many people don’t grow wisdom teeth, it is vital to understand the factors that impact their growth. Scientists believe specific influencers may determine whether you’ll develop one or not:


As stated earlier, genetics play a crucial role in the possible growth of a person’s third molars. We have already shown studies that point to a possible genetic mutation that occurred thousands of years ago, which caused the disappearance of third molars in some people. Additionally, studies have found that specific populations and ethnic groups are more likely to have wisdom teeth than others, suggesting a strong genetic influence. Furthermore, environmental factors such as diet and jaw size can also affect the growth of wisdom teeth.


We have also shown that people from various ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and settings have fewer occurrences of wisdom teeth in their populations. In some parts of the world, having wisdom teeth may be prevalent, while it is possible for entire people not to have them. It is believed that one’s environment has a 20% to 40% influence on the potential growth of wisdom teeth. Additionally, studies have found that individuals with a modern diet, which often consists of softer and processed foods, may have smaller jaws that cannot accommodate the growth of wisdom teeth. On the other hand, populations with traditional diets that include more rough and tough foods tend to have more enormous jaws, allowing for the proper development of these teeth.

Natural Selection:

Some studies suggest that as humanity developed smaller jaws over the centuries, those who still grew wisdom teeth experienced pain due to impacted teeth. They felt a lot of pain as a result of this condition. The people who experienced such terrible pain were believed to be less likely to mate and reproduce. Thus, natural selection favored ancient people who didn’t grow their third molars. This led to a gradual decrease in the prevalence of wisdom teeth in the human population over time. Most individuals do not develop wisdom teeth or experience the associated pain. Indicating an evolutionary adaptation to our changing jaw structure and dietary habits.

Exposure to External Factors:

Studies also suggest that certain external factors, such as certain medications, viruses, and chemotherapy, may substantially impact the development of permanent teeth. These factors can also reduce one’s chances of growing wisdom teeth. Additionally, studies have shown that genetics play a role in developing wisdom teeth. Certain genetic variations can influence whether or not an individual will develop these teeth. Furthermore, changes in dietary patterns and the introduction of processed foods may have contributed to the decreased need for wisdom teeth, as our diets have become softer and require less chewing.

Dental Procedures:

Some studies suggest that specific dental procedures, such as anesthesia injections, can reduce one’s chances of growing wisdom teeth. Children who get anesthesia injections in their gums early in life, from two to six years of age, may likely not have wisdom teeth. Additionally, advancements in orthodontic treatments, such as braces, have also been linked to the decreased need for wisdom teeth. Straightening teeth at a younger age can create more space in the mouth, potentially preventing the eruption of wisdom teeth.

FAQs about the Role of Genetics in Wisdom Teeth

Do genetics solely determine wisdom teeth development?

Genetics is a significant factor, but it’s not the only one. Environmental factors and individual variation also play roles in wisdom teeth development. Environmental factors, such as diet and oral hygiene practices, can influence the growth and development of wisdom teeth.

Can I predict if I will have impacted wisdom teeth based on my family history?

While a family history of impacted wisdom teeth increases the risk, it is not guaranteed. Regular dental check-ups and X-rays are essential for monitoring wisdom teeth development. Regular dental check-ups and X-rays can help identify any potential issues with wisdom teeth early on, allowing for timely intervention if necessary.

Is there a way to prevent wisdom teeth impaction if it runs in my family?

Prevention may not be possible, but early detection through dental monitoring can help manage and address impaction issues promptly. Sometimes, wisdom teeth may need to be extracted to prevent future problems. It is essential to consult with a dentist or oral surgeon for personalized advice and recommendations based on your specific situation.

Can genetics influence the timing of wisdom teeth eruption?

Yes, genetics can influence when wisdom teeth erupt. Family patterns may provide insight into when you can expect your wisdom teeth to emerge. However, it is essential to note that genetics is not the sole determining factor, and other factors, such as jaw size and development, can also play a role in the timing of wisdom teeth eruption.

Is it necessary to remove wisdom teeth if they are impacted due to genetics?

Not always. Wisdom teeth are typically removed if they cause pain, infection, or dental problems. Your dentist will assess your specific situation. They may recommend removing the impacted wisdom teeth to prevent future complications, even if they are not causing any issues. It is essential to consult with your dentist to determine the best course of action for your oral health.

Is wisdom teeth impaction more common in certain ethnic groups due to genetics?

There is some variation among ethnic groups, but genetics is just one factor. Dental professionals consider multiple factors when assessing impaction risk. These factors include the size and shape of the jaw, the position of the wisdom teeth, and overall oral health. Additionally, lifestyle habits such as oral hygiene practices and diet can contribute to the likelihood of wisdom teeth impaction.


Genetics undeniably plays a crucial role in wisdom teeth development and impaction. While you may inherit certain genetic traits that influence the size and structure of your jaw and the development of your wisdom teeth, it’s essential to remember that genetics alone do not determine your fate. Regular dental check-ups and early intervention can help manage any issues related to wisdom teeth, whether impacted or not. Other factors, such as the position and alignment of the wisdom teeth and the available space in the mouth, also contribute to the risk of impaction. Additionally, lifestyle choices such as oral hygiene practices and diet can impact the development and health of wisdom teeth. Therefore, a comprehensive assessment that considers these various factors is necessary to determine the potential risk of impaction.