*Rx for Readers: The ‘hochma’ of wisdom teeth*

Experts respond to readers' health queries.

3D model of a tooth (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
3D model of a tooth
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A friend of mine told me she was born without wisdom teeth. Another friend told me she has five! How common are these cases, and what is the cause? It is good for one’s dental health, or can it lead to improper shifting of other molars?
S.J., Jerusalem
Dr. Steve Sattler, a retired Jerusalem dentist with over 40 years of clinical experience, who has investigated this matter, replies: Between 1 percent and 3% of people in the modern Western population lack wisdom teeth. There are a number of common variations: 1. Four missing wisdom teeth; 2. Two missing wisdom teeth, usually the two upper ones on the right and the left; 3. Four evolutionary garinim (seeds) in the jaws that didn’t evolve and develop into real wisdom teeth, between the ages of 14 and 18; 4. Only one missing wisdom tooth (or one that is very small); 5. The teeth (or tooth) are not really missing but jammed up (or down), high up in the back of the jaw, and the standard small X-ray didn’t catch it. A full panoramic digital X-ray is best for a proper and complete diagnosis; 6. Instead of wisdom teeth, the patient has cysts (or possible cysts). It is best to consult a maxillofacial surgeon to investigate this matter, as there are a few uncommon genetic and familial syndromes that link missing teeth or cysts to other bodily problems; 7. If the jaw is small, or there is a breathing problem or unusual spaces between the teeth, the patient must see an orthodontist who specializes in adults for diagnosis and possible treatment; and 8. It is accepted in the profession (but not fully proven) that missing teeth – including missing incisors or bicuspids – and wisdom teeth are linked to superior intelligence.
Some very smart people have missing teeth; the same theory says that missing wisdom teeth = small jaw = big brain = high forehead = extra intelligence.
In any case, a competent and well-trained dentist should perform a full oral and dental examination (including X-rays) of such a patient to assess any possible problems or pathology.
If a problem is found, the siblings of the patient must also be examined.
Having an additional wisdom tooth is even more rare than missing wisdom teeth. There are four possibilities: 1. The person has a genetic problem (or the pregnant mother was sick), and the bud for the fourth wisdom tooth split and became a second tooth. The fourth and fifth teeth are then very close to each other. Both are usually extracted; 2. The fifth tooth is not a real tooth, but a cystic-calcified piece of the original bud; 3. A dentist extracted a wisdom tooth and “forgot” a piece of the tooth behind. It finally erupted, and looks and feels like a tooth. This too needs to be extracted; and 4. A genuine – and very rare – case of a fifth wisdom tooth. Not all humans are equal; some have extra parts.
In any case, an experienced dentist should examine such a patient and conduct a full oral and dental exam on them.
A relative of mine in her 60s, who is not overweight but likes reading books on health and diet, decided to go on the “Paleo Diet,” which is based on what cavemen and cavewomen ate – lots of meat, very little carbohydrates (even complex carbs), some dairy and fish. She lost six kilos in a month. Is this diet just a fad? It sounds like an extreme version of the Atkins Diet. Is it harmful?
I.J., Jerusalem
Dr. Olga Raz, chief clinical dietitian of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, answers: Just the idea of a person in the 21st century eating as if he lived millions of years ago is ridiculous, and a commercial gimmick. In that period, humans ate what they could get their hands on, including plants, worms, animals, strawberries, leaves and the like. I would like to see someone follow that diet today.
Don’t forget that life expectancy in the prehistoric era was about 33 years, and they never survived beyond 60. The Paleo Diet is rich in protein but is not balanced, and is liable to cause damage, especially to an older person. The main risk is burdening the kidneys, osteoporosis and loss of muscle (sarcopenia). Any extreme diet is not recommended.
It is important to consult a medical expert in regard to diets and adopt one that is suited to a person’s age and condition, to extend life without causing damage.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to jsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.