Dental Ankylosis: A Rare Concern for Baby Teeth

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Have you ever heard of a dental condition that causes a baby tooth to sink into the nearby bone instead of loosening up like it's supposed to? This rare condition is called dental ankylosis, and it can lead to further problems down the road if left untreated. Learn how to recognize this condition early on when it can be most easily addressed.

Recognizing Dental Ankylosis

As explained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this condition occurs when a tooth fuses to the surrounding bone and slowly begins to sink into the nearby gum tissue. Normally, small fibers called the periodontal ligament hold a tooth in its socket, but with ankylosis this connection is absent and the tooth becomes directly attached to nearby bone. Although this condition can affect baby and adult molar teeth, it is most commonly noticed when children fail to lose a baby tooth at the appropriate time.

According to the International Organization of Scientific Research's Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences (IOSR-JDMS), estimates for the prevalence of ankylosis range from 1.3 to 14.3 percent of people. This disorder has a higher incidence in between siblings and is slightly more common in females. Ankylosis affects baby teeth 10 times more often than adult teeth. The one-year-old molar in the lower jaw is the tooth that ankylosis most commonly affects. A person may have only a single ankylosed tooth, or several.

Problems Caused by Dental Ankylosis

The immediate problem caused by most cases of dental ankylosis is that the fixed baby tooth prevents an adult tooth from growing in. Over time, according to the NIH, this condition causes other oral health issues like difficulty chewing if the back teeth do not touch each other. It also may cause the loss of neighboring teeth to cavities and periodontal disease.

Permanent changes to facial structure, like a protruding jaw and a reduction in the height of the lower portion of the face, may develop over time. IOSR-JDMS explains that additional problems may occur. Surrounding teeth may begin to tip as the ankylosed tooth sinks. Teeth on the opposite portion of the dental arch may over-erupt and stick out further than they are supposed to.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Dental Ankylosis

If you suspect that a tooth in your mouth or your child's mouth is affected by dental ankylosis, it is important to seek care from a dental professional. Many times a person is unaware that they have this condition until it is detected during a routine dental exam. The problem tooth can be identified through a visual examination, and the results are typically confirmed with a dental X-ray.

As explained by Dentistry IQ, treatment often consists of removing the ankylosed tooth so that the adult tooth will erupt properly. A space maintainer may be placed to hold the space until the adult tooth erupts. Other options include placing a restorative material to raise the height of the tooth.

When to Involve a Dental Specialist

As the condition progresses, other oral health specialists may need to become involved. An orthodontist can correct skeletal and bite issues. Sometimes oral surgery is needed to expose and reposition the adult tooth. Implants may also need to be placed if the baby tooth does not have an adult tooth under it or if the ankylosed tooth is an adult tooth.

Early detection is always a great tool to limit future problems. Getting regular dental exams and cleanings keep teeth at their healthiest. Since ankylosis of a tooth can sometimes be caused by trauma, avoiding dental injuries is another method of prevention. Protecting teeth with mouth guards during any type of athletic activity is an easy and effective way to keep sports fun and safe.

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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