Often, infants with a toothless smile seem like a regular occurrence. However, if this condition prolongs even after six months of age, it might indicate the possibility of anodontia. Anodontia is a term used for congenitally missing teeth. It is a genetic disorder in which the tooth follicles of primary or permanent teeth fail to develop. Thus, the child suffers from a toothless mouth.
The exact cause of this inherited disorder is still unknown. However, it is seldom thought to be a part of similar inherited diseases such as ectodermal dysplasia. Anodontia can typically be categorized into complete or partial. Often wisdom teeth are excluded from the missing teeth category. Clinically, a person with anodontia may exhibit senile facial characteristics and experience difficulty in chewing and speaking.
Diagnosis is based on a radiographic evaluation to check the development of tooth follicles. Failure to develop teeth till the age of 13 months in infant and ten years in young children may also be suspected for anodontia. Treatment usually depends on the type of anodontia and mainly includes the use of fixed or removable dental prostheses. Today’s article will highlight the features of anodontia. Furthermore, we will discuss the diagnosis and treatment of anodontia.
What is anodontia?
Anodontia is a rare genetic disorder which is characterized by the congenital absence of primary or permanent teeth. In such cases, the tooth follicles are not formed in the jaws. Typically, anodontia is associated with ectodermal dysplasia. (1) Anodontia should not be mistaken with missing teeth that may occur due to underlying dental problem or injury. Typically, anodontia can be categorized into three types –
- Partial anodontia – is also known as hypodontia. It refers to the congenital absence of one to six permanent teeth in the jaw. Wisdom teeth are not included in the series. Usually, partial anodontia is caused due to the failure of the teeth to develop.
- Oligodontia – it is similar to partial anodontia except that in this condition, more than six teeth excluding the wisdom teeth are usually missing. (2)
- Complete anodontia – as the name suggests, it refers to the total absence of teeth in the mouth.
What causes anodontia?
As mentioned earlier, anodontia is an inherited disorder caused by a genetic defect. Although the exact gene that causes anodontia is not precise, it is believed that genetic mutations that occur in ectodermal dysplasia are closely associated with anodontia. (3) Often the symptoms of such genetic conditions may include the following –
- Lack of sweat glands
- Cleft lip and palate
- Absence of fingernails
What are the characteristics of anodontia?
Typical characteristics of anodontia are listed below –
- Missing teeth
- Senile facial appearance because of missing teeth and reduced alveolar ridges
- Difficulty in chewing and speaking
- Malocclusion in partial anodontia
- Cleft palate
- Redness and soreness around the gums due to constant rubbing caused while eating food
How is anodontia diagnosed?
Often, if a baby doesn’t start developing a primary set of teeth by the time they are 13 months old, a tentative diagnosis of anodontia is suspected. Children who have primary teeth but fail to develop permanent teeth by the age of ten years are also diagnosed with anodontia. (4)
Most of the dentist’s advice radiographic evaluation to check the development of tooth follicles in the jaw. Moreover, they may follow a wait and watch technique for children who may develop the teeth a little later than usual.
How is anodontia treated?
Treatment usually depends on the type of anodontia and mostly includes the replacement of missing teeth with a dental prosthesis. Some of the procedures of anodontia are listed below –
- Complete or partial dentures – removable dental prosthesis are conventional treatments that aid in the replacement of missing teeth. They are also the most effective for patients with complete anodontia.
- A dental bridge – these are considered as a non-removable dental prosthesis. A dental bridge is used to bind the artificial teeth with the adjacent natural teeth. This way, it fills in the missing tooth space and works best for patients with partial anodontia. (5)
- Dental implants – implants are a fixed alternative to dentures in cases of complete anodontia. Moreover, they can also be used to replace single or multiple missing teeth in the dental arch.
Irrespective of the type of treatment you may choose to replace your missing teeth, it is essential to maintain proper oral hygiene, which includes regular brushing of the teeth and the dental prosthesis. Patients with removable dentures must take care to remove the denture during the night and store it in water.
Take away message
Anodontia is a genetic disorder that leads to congenitally missing teeth in both primary and permanent dentition. Often the failure of tooth eruption by 13 months of age in infants and ten years in young children is considered as an indication for anodontia. Typically, anodontia can be partial or complete. Although the specific gene to cause anodontia is not yet identified, it is believed that anodontia is associated with green alterations, as seen in ectodermal dysplasia.
Clinical features of anodontia mainly include missing teeth, failure of tooth follicles to develop in the jaw, and senile facial characteristics. Dentists may use radiographic evaluations to determine the condition. Often the absence of tooth follicle confirms complete anodontia. However, in the case of delayed tooth eruption, the dentist may try to rule out any underlying dental condition that may be inhibiting the growth of the tooth.
Treatment of anodontia mainly includes the replacement of missing teeth with a dental prosthesis. It is always advisable to discuss suitable treatment options with the dentist.