mom playing with daughter

What Is Regional Odontodysplasia?

Regional odontodysplasia (RO) is a rare developmental disorder of the teeth that is characterized by a ghostlike appearance of affected teeth, thereby giving them the nickname "ghost teeth." X-rays of these teeth are fuzzier than normal, showing thin and defective layers of enamel and dentin, as explained in a study published by the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences.

What Do Ghost Teeth Look Like?

RO can affect both baby and adult teeth. The affected teeth have a yellowish or brownish appearance with irregular pits and grooves located on the tooth surface, according to a report published in Case Reports in Dentistry. This developmental disorder occurs when the enamel and dentin don't form properly, resulting in teeth that are abnormally shaped and weakened.

An X-ray of the affected area typically shows teeth with short roots and open ends. The pulp chambers are abnormally large. Sometimes RO causes a dental abscess or overgrown gums, and it frequently affects several adjacent teeth.

This condition is commonly accompanied by delayed, failed or incomplete tooth eruption. The sacs containing the developing tooth structure of unerupted teeth may also appear enlarged. This may be the issue that a parent or dentist first notices.

Causes of Regional Odontodysplasia

The cause of this condition is unknown, but some experts suggest trauma, nutritional deficiency, infection, metabolic disorders, systemic disease and genetics may play a role. This disorder is considered nonhereditary, meaning it is not passed down from parents to children.

The prevalence of RO is currently undetermined, since most studies are individual case reports. A study in Contemporary Clinical Dentistry states that it most often occurs in the upper teeth on one side and affects females more commonly than males.


Discolored teeth with an irregular appearance may or may not indicate a case of RO. This disorder closely resembles several hereditary dental conditions, including dentin dysplasia, dentinogenesis imperfecta and amelogenesis imperfecta. The main differentiation is that RO only affects neighboring teeth in one section of the mouth. If you suspect you or your child have RO or another dental condition, it is important to seek care from a dental professional as soon as possible.

Treatment of regional odontodysplasia often requires a collaborative effort by several different specialists, including pediatric dentists, orthodontists, prosthodontists and oral surgeons. Teeth may need to be extracted if they have abscesses. Some dentists prefer to extract all teeth that are affected by this condition, as they are already weakened. Others prefer to restore the weakened tooth structure with a filling material to keep it functional as long as possible.

The teeth affected by regional odontodysplasia are especially vulnerable to decay, making it critical that the patient maintains optimal oral hygiene. Their routine should include special attention to brushing and flossing at home and professional dental cleanings at least two times a year.

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.

Mobile Top Image

Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.

Mobile Bottom Image