Two dentists discuss an x-ray with a female patient

What Is Taurodontism?

If you've ever had a dental x-ray show a tooth, roots and all, in a large rectangular shape instead of the usual crown with one or two prongs, you might have taurodontism.

This unusual dental phenomenon most often affects permanent teeth, especially molars. It isn't easy to pinpoint taurodontism's cause. But it does show up in certain populations. Find out how to spot taurodont teeth and learn how this rare dental condition can affect your oral health.

What Does a Taurodont Tooth Look Like?

The term comes from the Greek words "Taurus," meaning "bull," and "odonto," meaning tooth. It's characterized by a tooth's vertically enlarged pulp chamber that's almost three to four times larger than normal.

This supersized pulp chamber develops at the expense of the tooth's roots. So, although a taurodont tooth can look normal on the surface, below the gumline, the tooth appears to extend in a rectangular shape with stubby roots. It resembles the shape of a piece of bread.

Diagnosis, Causes, and Prevalence

If you have any taurodont teeth, you won't even know it until a dental X-ray exposes the condition and a dentist diagnoses taurodontism. Although considered to be a developmental rarity, the precise cause of taurodontism is unknown.

According to research published in the Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, taurodont teeth can result from various causes:

  • Hormonal disorders or mutations
  • Genetic disorders or mutations such as:
    • Amelogenesis imperfecta, a condition affecting the development of tooth enamel
    • Ectodermal dysplasia, a disorder affecting the skin, hair, nails, teeth, and sweat glands
  • Cell mutations or disruptions
  • Evolutionary adaptations

The prevalence of taurodont teeth shows up globally in multiple groups of people. The Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences research notes that the condition is common among the indigenous people of Alaska, Australia, and Central America.

Taurodontism is also associated with several developmental syndromes, including Down syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, Mohr syndrome, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, and Lowe syndrome.

Oral Health Considerations

Although taurodontism itself requires no treatment, it can affect certain dental procedures, including:

  • Root canals, with the tooth's shape and shortened roots making it difficult to fill canals properly
  • Tooth extraction
  • Preparation of teeth for crowns or bridgework

Like its namesake, taurodont teeth are bullishly large (for teeth anyway), but they shouldn't be a bother. If you need any future dental procedures on this type of teeth, your dentist will discuss the procedures with you during treatment planning. And if you or anyone in your family receives a diagnosis of taurodontism, you should feel comfortable talking to your dental professional about what it means for your oral and medical health.

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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