While many people lose teeth as a result of an injury or dental condition, some patients never develop certain teeth as a result of a congenital defect. Congenitally missing teeth can be classified into two different disorders: hypodontia (developmentally missing teeth) or oligodontia (congenital lack of more than six teeth). These conditions often occur concurrently with other conditions such as a cleft lip or palate, and certain skin, hair and nail defects. Patients with hypodontia and oligodontia are most often missing the wisdom teeth, second premolars and permanent upper second incisors.
These defects most often occur as a result of hereditary factors and run in families, but congenitally missing teeth may also occur as a result of the following:
While up to 20 percent of American adults never develop wisdom teeth, missing other teeth is considered much less common. Congenital defects can affect both the baby teeth and permanent teeth, but occur more often with the permanent teeth. As a rule, when a baby tooth is missing, the permanent teeth will be missing as well.
It is important for patients who have any missing teeth to be fully examined by a dentist in order to detect any related genetic abnormalities and provide proper treatment since missing teeth put patients at risk for gum disease, tooth decay and other serious conditions.
Treatment can vary depending on the location and quantity of missing teeth, as well as the patient's overall health and preference for treatment. Dental implants are commonly used with crowns, bridges or dentures to create a full, beautiful smile that naturally restores the patient's appearance. Implants are just as strong and durable as regular teeth, and allow patients to eat and speak normally.