Congenitally missing teeth (CMT), known as hypodontia, is a condition in which the permanent teeth do not develop.
Hypodontia is one of the most common dental abnormalities. According to research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the congenital absence of teeth may affect as many as 16.2 percent of the population.
Why do some patients have permanent teeth that fail to develop? And what type of treatment is necessary for this dental anomaly?
What Causes Hypodontia?
Before a tooth can grow, a small band of tissue called the dental lamia or dental germ must form underneath the gums. Hypodontia is usually the result of a disturbance in the early stages of development that inhibits the growth of this tissue.
Additional underlying mechanisms and environmental factors, including trauma, infection and some drugs, also can contribute to hypodontia.
Genes may play a part as well. Studies have associated this dental condition with more than 120 genetic syndromes, including cleft lip and palate, Down syndrome and ectodermal dysplasia.
Why Treat Congenitally Missing Teeth?
If some of your child’s permanent teeth never come in, is this truly a cause for concern? Do you really need to consider treatment?
Maybe not, if the absent teeth are your child’s wisdom teeth. Oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction for most patients to prevent future dental problems.
With many cases of CMT, however, the premolars or incisors are absent. Not only does this affect the appearance, but it can also cause malocclusion, or a misalignment in the teeth when the mouth is closed. Problems with bone growth, difficulty speaking, a reduced chewing ability and periodontal damage can result from these forms of hypodontia.
How are Congenitally Missing Teeth Treated?
Treatment for hypodontia can involve several procedures, and serious cases could require both orthodontics and oral surgery.
If your child is missing a few teeth, dental implants may be an option for tooth replacement, once the jaw has finished growing. Or, you could opt for a fixed bridge or a removable partial denture.
Before replacing the missing teeth, however, other work may need to be done. Braces may be required to move the existing teeth into the correct position and create room for the replacements. And corrective jaw surgery or other oral and maxillofacial surgery procedures may be necessary.
The severity of your child’s malocclusion, tooth crowding and the effect of hypodontia on his or her facial profile will all be considered in developing a treatment plan. And in some cases, missing teeth aren’t truly missing, but have simply never penetrated the gums. In that case, a combination of oral surgery and orthodontia can provide an effective solution.
If your child has congenitally missing teeth, a full exam will allow us to diagnose and treat the problem. The experienced oral surgeons at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can provide a better understanding of this and other causes of hypodontia. Contact one of our Salt Lake City area offices today to schedule a consultation to discuss your child’s missing teeth.