Congenitally Missing Teeth: What Are They?

Welcoming the arrival of your children's teeth is one of the pleasures of parenthood, but sometimes one or more teeth don't appear. Congenitally missing teeth are teeth that never appear during childhood and that aren't trapped in the gum. In many cases, missing one or two teeth is simply a family trait, but occasionally a separate genetic condition is the cause.

Which Teeth Are Missing?

Up to 20 percent of adults are missing one or two teeth congenitally, according to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (NFED). The condition usually affects certain teeth.

The teeth most often missing are the lateral incisors and the second premolars. Lateral incisors sit on either side of the two front teeth, which are called the central incisors. The second premolars are located between the first premolars and the molars, which are the large teeth at the rear of the mouth.

When a genetic condition causes the missing teeth, however, more than two teeth may be absent and the existing teeth can be malformed.

What Causes Congenitally Missing Teeth?

Most congenitally missing teeth are the result of a harmless trait passed down through families. More rarely, the condition is a symptom of a genetic disorder. The NFED advises dentists to consider ectodermal dysplasia as a diagnosis in people who are missing more than two teeth. Other genetic conditions that cause missing teeth are Down syndrome and oral cleft lip and palate.

What Are the Effects of Congenitally Missing Teeth ?

Besides the cosmetic effects, missing teeth can cause dental problems. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, the teeth surrounding the missing tooth are less stable, so they may move into the missing space by shifting forward. Missing teeth can impair the support of the jaw and your ability to chew and speak.

Treatments for Congenitally Missing Teeth

dental X-ray helps a dentist confirm that your tooth or teeth are completely absent and not just stuck in your gum. Then, the dentist can advise you on treatment options.

Dentists replace missing teeth with partial bridges, dentures or implants. A partial bridge anchors a false tooth to the healthy teeth on each side of the gap, while a denture replaces a whole set of teeth and partial dentures replace a few teeth. Dental implants consist of a titanium implant (fixture) that is inserted into your jaw bone and a crown is attached to the top of the implant abutment.

Caring for bridges, dentures and dental implants is similar to caring for natural teeth. Brushing twice a day with a toothpaste like Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean and flossing once a day is usually all that's required.

An attractive smile is important for self-confidence. What's more, a healthy mouth is important for proper functioning. If you are unhappy with your or your child's congenitally missing teeth, speak to your dentist about the options for replacement. They can offer a solution that looks natural and improves your dental health.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What Are The Different Parts Of A Tooth?

Each tooth has several distinct parts; here is an overview of each part:

  • Enamel – this is the outer and hardest part of the tooth that has the most mineralized tissue in the body. It can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.

  • Dentin – this is the layer of the tooth under the enamel. If decay makes it through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.

  • Pulp – this is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are located. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain and may require a root canal procedure.