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What Is A Talon Cusp?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

When you're inspecting your smile in the mirror, you most likely see two rows of smooth, rectangular teeth. Did you know that although your permanent teeth probably didn't come in for several years, they began developing before you were born? A baby begins to develop teeth in the womb, as early as twenty weeks! And while we all hope we'll end up with perfectly aligned, smooth adult teeth when they grow in, the tooth's development process can sometimes create anomalies. One such example is a talon cusp. Let's go over what a talon cusp is, how common it is, its causes, effects on oral health, and how to treat it if needed!

According to an article in BMJ Case Reports, this rare dental anomaly develops in the stage before the teeth have calcified, usually because of evagination. Evagination is when a protrusion extends out a structure's original position. A dental cusp is an outgrowth on the part of the tooth that faces the tongue. But why do we call this type of tooth anomaly a talon cusp? Its name derives from its shape, which is similar to a talon or eagle's claw.

How Common Are Talon Cusps?

Talon cusps are rare. They're thought to affect 0.04 to 8 percent of the population, according to a case report in the Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Journal (OMPJ). A cusp can develop on a baby tooth (also known as primary teeth) but more commonly develops on a permanent tooth. The OMPJ report notes that talon cusps appear on the permanent teeth about 75 percent of the time. Talon cusp teeth are also found more in men than women.

Another interesting fact about talon cusps is that they tend to develop on specific teeth. According to the OMPJ report, more than 92 percent of cases involve an upper tooth. The cusps most frequently occur on the maxillary lateral incisors, the two teeth on the left and right of your center front teeth, or top central incisors. They can even form on your central incisors and occasionally appear on your canines too.

What Causes a Talon Cusp?

Unfortunately, we don't know the exact reason why some people develop a talon cusp. A literature review published in Case Reports in Dentistry notes that it's likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the formation of talon cusps, not exclusively one or the other.

Effects on Dental Health

A talon cusp will usually form on the chewing or tongue-facing sides of the teeth. If the cusp is small, a talon cusp tooth might not cause any trouble for you, and you'll be able to chew, speak, and do other daily functions with it. But if the cusp is large, it can contribute to dental problems like cavities, gum irritation, and injury to the lips or tongue. In some instances, a cusp can even make it challenging to speak or eat.

Treatment Options for Talon Cusps

Talon cusp treatment can depend on a few factors, such as the cusp's size, if there's pulp inside of it, and when it's diagnosed. What's most important to determine for proper treatment is whether the cusp is causing a dental issue or affecting your quality of life. Your dental professional will be able to help you determine how severe your cusp is and what type of treatment, if any, you need!

Small cusps may not need treatment at all. If you have a small talon cusp, it may be gradually ground down over time, creating a smooth tooth surface. However, if your cusp contains tooth pulp that has become infected or is large enough to interfere with chewing or other daily functions, endodontic treatment, like a root canal, might be necessary.

As noted by the Case Reports in Dentistry literature review, there's a wide range of treatment options that depend on your talon cusp's severity and if it has caused any other issues. Necessary treatments can range from treating the problem that a minor cusp has caused, such as tooth decay, to a several months-long treatment of removing the cusp but preserving the pulp of a more severe case.

If you notice a cusp-like projection or another type of anomaly on one of your teeth, your best bet is always to see your dental professional! If the issue is causing you discomfort, your dental professional can help put you at ease by educating you on what this anomaly is and potential treatment options. Talon cusps don't have to inhibit your daily life or make you self-conscious about your mouth's appearance. Your dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that alleviates your concerns and makes you more confident in the appearance of your smile!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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