What is Hypodontia?
During our lifetimes, we will grow and lose 20 primary teeth. As those teeth fall out, they will be replaced by an average of 32 adult teeth. That’s only an average, however—not everyone has 32 teeth (or, in the case of those who have had wisdom teeth removed, 28). Are you one of those people?
The most prevailing reason for this occurrence is a developmental condition called hypodontia.
Normally, people with hypodontia will be missing six or fewer teeth. (Related to hypodontia are oligodontia—those who are missing more than six teeth—and anodontia, where all permanent teeth are missing.) This is due to a developmental defect where the teeth fail to develop.
If you have hypodontia and are feeling unlucky, don’t. It’s estimated that twenty percent of adults are missing at least one permanent tooth—making hypodontia one of the most prevalent developmental conditions having to do with the mouth. Interestingly, hypodontia is more prevalent in the case of identical twins. It is also more typical in women than it is in men.
Hypodontia is typically an inherited trait, though environmental factors have been known to play a role. Some of them are maternal smoking, low birth weight, incidences of rubella, and advanced maternal age. Luckily, there are treatments available. They include dental implants, orthodontic braces and appliances, and dental prosthetics. When the gap between the teeth is minimal, tooth-colored fillings can be bonded to the teeth, closing the gap.
Treatment for children is a little different than treatment for adults. It isn’t recommended that children receive implants since they have less-developed jaws. Dentists might recommend keeping the baby tooth in the child’s mouth until it falls out, or, if it remains healthy, leave it be. Interestingly, if it is properly cared for, a primary tooth can last a lifetime. If preserving the primary tooth is impossible, dentists will pull other permanent teeth toward each other using braces, closing the gap made by the missing tooth.