Imagine two people of the same height standing next to each other: one has an average sized torso and legs, and the other has a torso twice as long and much shorter legs. A taurodont tooth looks like the latter, with an enlarged rectangular body and very short roots.
Taurodontism is an unusual developmental phenomenon that most often affects the permanent teeth. Learn more about this rare condition and its effect on oral health.
What Does a Taurodont Tooth Look Like?
The term comes from the Greek words "taurus," meaning "bull," and "odonto," meaning tooth. It is characterized by an enlarged pulp chamber, displacement of the pulpal floor toward the root and lack of constriction at the neck of the tooth, giving the tooth an overall rectangular shape.
Taurodontism most often affects the permanent molars.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
The dental rarity can only be diagnosed by a dentist examining X-rays of the teeth, as it presents no symptoms. It is most common in Eskimos and native populations of Australia and Central America, according to a study published in the Indian Journal of Oral Sciences.
Although it is considered to be a developmental phenomenon, the precise cause of taurodontism is unknown. Some experts suggest it may be caused by a disruption in Hertwig's epithelial root sheath, the cells that initiate tooth root development.
The condition has been associated with several developmental syndromes, including Down syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, Mohr syndrome, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and Lowe syndrome. It has also been found in patients exhibiting ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic disorder affecting the skin, hair, nails, teeth and sweat glands, and amelogenesis imperfecta, a condition affecting the development of enamel on the teeth.
Implications for the Mouth
Although taurodontism itself requires no treatment, it can have a major effect on dental procedures a patient may need.
It is especially difficult trying to treat a taurodont tooth needing root canal therapy. The shape of the tooth and the shortened roots make it hard to properly fill the canals. Imagine trying to fit clothes on that individual with the very long torso and short legs!
Other procedures that may be affected by the unique shape of a taurodont tooth include tooth extraction and preparation of the teeth for crowns or bridgework. On the other hand, taurodontism may actually help to retain teeth that could otherwise be compromised by bone loss.
For more information about this dental abnormality, consult your dentist.