Most people expect to develop a set of 20 baby (primary) teeth before 32 adult teeth eventually appear. Unfortunately, in a few cases, the teeth don't develop as you would expect, and some people end up with one or more missing teeth. Learn more about anodontia, a disorder that affects tooth development, and find out what you may need to do if you don't have the right number of teeth.
Anodontia is a rare genetic disorder that means some (or all) of the teeth fail to develop. Some people end up with just one missing tooth, but some sufferers may never have any adult teeth. Studies suggest that up to 6.5 percent of people have at least one missing tooth as a result of this condition.
Dentists use the term anodontia to refer to any patient who has one or more missing teeth. Dentists then break the condition down further into oligodontia, where a patient has more than 6 missing teeth, and hypodontia, where you have 1 to 6 missing teeth.
The condition is more likely to affect certain types of teeth. Most commonly, people with the condition never develop their wisdom teeth. The upper lateral incisors, lower second premolars and upper second premolars are also more likely to suffer these developmental issues.
Causes and symptoms
Anodontia is a genetic disorder, although scientists have not yet pinpointed the faulty gene that causes the issue. Scientists believe that different genes result in oligodontia and hypodontia, but further research is underway to understand the condition more. Parents with the faulty genes can pass on the condition, but if a child receives one normal gene and one faulty gene, he or she will not normally show the symptoms.
Symptoms in children normally appear by the time the child is three. Similarly, most people have all their permanent teeth by the age of 14. As such, if any teeth are missing by this age, you should consult your dentist. People with the disorder sometimes show other symptoms, and anodontia can also cause problems with your hair, nails and sweat glands.
The challenge dentists face
People with the condition can sometimes cope with one or two missing teeth, particularly if it is just the wisdom teeth that do not develop. Unfortunately, where the person is missing more important teeth (or lots of teeth) dentists must take corrective action.
Your teeth don't just help you eat your food. The symmetry and shape of your face rely on normal tooth development. As such, a dentist will need to tackle the problem as soon as possible, to make sure you don't suffer with other dental issues. For example, if you don't have wisdom teeth, you can suffer problems with occlusion (how neatly and closely your teeth meet). In turn, you may need treatment to remove problem teeth.
As such, dentists must normally consider two types of treatment.
- Complete space closure. If the tooth is not vital, a dentist can close the space between your teeth. He or she may need to refer you to a specialist orthodontist, who can use a temporary anchor implant to close the gap.
- Prosthetic replacements. More commonly, a dentist will use a bridge, dental implant or prosthetics to replace the missing tooth. For some people, this is a relatively complex process because the dentist must first widen the opening to create room for the implant.
Your dentist will normally recommend implants where the condition affects your upper lateral incisors, due to the effect these missing teeth have on your natural smile.
Anodontia is a genetic disorder that means one or more of your teeth never develop. If you or a loved one suffers from this problem, talk to your dentist to find out more about the options available to you.