The cusp of carabelli is a non-functioning mini cusp that forms on some upper permanent first molars. It occurs on the side of the tooth facing the inside of the mouth on the mesio-palatal cusp and, if present, can feel like an extra bump on your tooth.
This dental abnormality was first discovered in 1842 by an Austrian dentist named Georg Carabelli and is well-known as a heritable occurrence. This distinct dental trait can be traced back to European ancestry and scientists are exploring its prevalence in Middle Eastern and Asian populations, according to the Notes in Human Evolution.
Because teeth are the hardest, most mineralized substance in the body, biological anthropologists and forensic specialists have long studied this extra cusp. Do you have a cusp of carabelli? The only way to know is to take a look inside your mouth or to ask your dentist!
What to Know About This Extra Cusp on Molars
A cusp of carabelli is considered an accessory cusp located on maxillary molars – most often the permanent first molars. It can also occur on deciduous or baby molars, usually the second molars. It can be found on both sides of the mouth, or bilaterally, and vary in size and shape. The cusp usually is not a dental concern. Clinically the grooves or pit that surround the extra cusp where it lies adjacent to the underlying cusp may be more susceptible to decay. Otherwise, it poses no threat to a healthy dentition or to the occlusal or bite relationship. For most people, it is entirely absent.
Having a cusp of carabelli can certainly be a topic of conversation, but in the dental office it needs to be noted and observed. As mentioned, there will be a demarcation groove or pit where it meets the underlying cusp on the molar. From a clinical standpoint, it can pose a danger to the tooth if decay forms in the grooves.
During an examination of the hard and soft tissues of the mouth your dentist or dental hygienist will record conditions and irregularities. This will include incipient lesions or pre-cavities in all teeth as well as the observance of an anomaly like a cusp of carabelli. If needed, your dental professional may recommend preventive measures to keep the decay from progressing into the softer layer of the tooth. They can include a prescription-strength fluoride application or the placement of dental sealants.
Protecting your teeth from decay is paramount for a healthy mouth. Floss regularly and brush twice daily with a toothpaste like Colgate Enamel Health Whitening, which helps replenish natural calcium and fights cavities. Having a tooth abnormality does not need to affect your healthy smile!