Hypodontia, developing less than a full complement of adult teeth, remains a mysterious condition. One of the remaining questions we have about the condition is whether the condition has been increasing over the course of the 20th century.
Although data about this question is still uncertain, we do know that our treatment options for hypodontia have improved. With dental implants, people with hypodontia can have a beautiful, functional smile.
What Causes Hypodontia?
Hypodontia is known by many names. It’s also called dental agenesis, meaning that a person’s teeth just don’t develop. The more modern parlance calls it congenitally missing teeth (CMT), but that acronym seems a little cold and bare.
Studies have suggested many potential causes for hypodontia. The leading theory is that it’s a combination of environmental and genetic factors in which some people are genetically susceptible to disturbances that interrupt the formative sequences for teeth. This theory isn’t exactly helpful, especially since no one knows which genetic factors might be involved. Some suggest that different genes might be responsible for each missing tooth. Different genes that are associated with many conditions, including cleft lip and ectodermal dysplasia.
As far as environmental disturbances, hypodontia’s been linked to to drug use, infection, and trauma.
Which Teeth Are Missing Most Often?
Although we don’t understand the causes of hypodontia, studies have tracked the trends of missing teeth. The most commonly missing teeth are wisdom teeth (third molars). In some populations, as much as 37% of people may be missing at least one wisdom tooth.
In North America, perhaps 8% of people are missing at least one tooth (not counting wisdom teeth). The second premolar is the next most common missing tooth. After that, the mandibular laterals are most commonly missing, although it’s very close to the second premolar.
Is Hypodontia Increasing?
It has seemed that hypodontia is increasing. Doctors and dentists seem to notice it more often and report it more often. Perhaps they are not aware of how much it was reported in the past and simply believed that it was rarer than it really was.
To try to answer this question, a meta-analysis of 19 studies on hypodontia was performed. The results were inconclusive: the time frame was too short to definitely establish a trend. However, it seemed that it was actually increasing over time, becoming more common.
Treatment for Hypodontia Has Improved
There are many potential treatment for hypodontia. Not all of them produce optimal results. In the past, the most common treatment was to just use orthodontics to close the gap when premolars or lateral incisors didn’t develop. Cosmetically, this worked fine for premolars–molars can stand in just fine, and if wisdom teeth come in they can move into the space available.
This doesn’t work as well for lateral incisors, whose prominence and unique shape mean they can’t be replaced by other teeth.
A dental bridge can sometimes be used, and this works well over the short term, but long term the lack of stimulation can lead to visible atrophy of the jawbone, causing gaps under the bridge.
Dental implants make a great replacement option for missing lateral incisors.
Do You Want an Attractive Replacement Tooth?
Whether or not hypodontia is increasing, we know that our treatment options keep getting better. If you are looking for a new replacement tooth or want to revise an earlier treatment, we can help.