What Is Hypodontia? Causes and Treatments for Missing Teeth

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You expect your baby to be born with all of the tooth buds they need to develop full sets of primary and permanent teeth, even if they aren't visibly present in your child's mouth. But sometimes, during a baby's development, certain genetic patterns or events can change the formation of the teeth under the gums. When a child is born missing one or more of their tooth buds, this is known as hypodontia.

Causes of Hypodontia

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), a child's primary teeth typically all erupt by age 3, and all permanent teeth usually arrive between the ages of 12 and 14 — with the exception of the wisdom teeth. Hypodontia refers to the absence of one to five of these primary or permanent teeth.

A review article in BioMed Research International states that hypodontia results from a combination of genetic factors and environmental influences, such as trauma or infection. It's also the most common craniofacial malformation occurring in humans, with a prevalence of 1.6% to 6.9%, depending on the population evaluated.

There are several terms used to describe specific forms of hypodontia:

  • Congenitally missing teeth (CMT): a condition where the tooth buds do not form properly within the gums of an unborn child
  • Tooth agenesis: when teeth fail to develop
  • Oligodontia: the absence of six or more teeth
  • Anodontia: the complete lack of teeth

Problems With Missing Teeth

CMT more commonly affects the permanent teeth than the baby teeth, according to a review in the Dental Research Journal (DRJ). The most commonly missing permanent teeth include one or more of the four wisdom teeth, the upper lateral incisors and the second premolars, as the American College of Prosthodontists explains.

Missing teeth can affect your ability to chew and your confidence in your smile. Additionally, missing teeth may pose functional concerns, as the other teeth in the mouth can move into the empty space and shift how the teeth come together. Ultimately, hypodontia can lead to problems with speech, gum damage and insufficient bone growth, as the DRJ review notes.

Treatment Options for Missing Teeth

Early childhood visits to a dental professional are incredibly important for many reasons. Learning preventive dental care early on will aid in the long-term health of your child's teeth. Preventive dental X-rays at these visits are also very important, since they can often detect if any teeth are missing, according to NORD. With the help of these X-rays, your dentist can then assess the mouth, diagnose any missing teeth and help you and your child plan for appropriate tooth replacement.

In the event that one or more teeth are missing, your dentist will likely recommend replacement options, such as removable partial dentures, fixed bridges or dental implants. Sometimes, orthodontic treatment can also be used to close gaps between teeth, according to the DRJ review.

If your child is born without one or more teeth, or if they are older and missing adult teeth, you can work with your dental team to find a functional and aesthetically appealing solution to give them a full smile.

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.