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Dental and Oral Health (Children)

I`m 15 and I`m missing my permanent teeth.

10/02/2009

Question:

I was born and raised in Jamaica for 8 years when I moved to America to live with my mother. By that time I only had 2 permanent teeth, my "two front teeth." After that as I got older, dentists were baffled by the fact that I had no permanent teeth growing under my baby teeth. I recently visited the dentist and I only have my two front teeth and my molars that are adult teeth. Altogether I have about 18 or more missing teeth. In the x-rays, there are still no permanent teeth growing. What would cause something like this? And what can I do to have a normal smile? Nothing like this runs in my family`s history. Help.

Answer:

The scientific term for missing teeth is "oligodontia" and this can occur sporadically or have an hereditary component. You state that missing teeth does not run in your family, but you might check to see if any extended family members have any missing permanent teeth. It's possible that you, unfortunately, have a more complete expression of a genetic condition that other family members have. 

Missing teeth are associated with over 120 genetic conditions affecting the head.  The most common is ectodermal dysplasia. This condition also affects hair, nails, skin and sweat glands. The hair may be fine and sparse, and exercise may not be tolerated well due to overheating. Rarely, oligodontia can occur with no other associated condition, but it's important to disucuss this with your pediatrician and to get a complete physical examination. 

Importantly, you need to have some teeth so that you can have a normal smile. While you're still growing, the solution is partial dentures that will fit around the permanent teeth that you have. When your growth is complete, you may be able to have implants that are surgically placed in your jaws. Then the dentist can attach prosthetic teeth to the implants giving you a very normal dental appearance. 

Pediatric dentists are specialists trained to diagnose conditions such as yours. That person may make your partial dentures or will refer you to someone who can help. 

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Response by:

Dennis J McTigue, DDS Dennis J McTigue, DDS
Professor of Pediatric Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University