There are typically 32 teeth in an adult mouth. Many people have to have their wisdom teeth removed, reducing the total to 28. However, some people never develop their wisdom teeth. In some cases they may be missing other permanent teeth! And not from tooth loss due to injury or decay, the teeth just never developed in the first place. Is something wrong if you don’t have 32 teeth? That depends…
Why do some teeth not develop?
Short answer, genetics. There is a term that’s used when a person is missing 6 or fewer permanent teeth, hypodontia. It’s a birth defect that is caused by abnormal changes in the genes. When a person is missing more than six permanent teeth, it’s called oligodontia. If a person has either of these, it is no fault of their own. It’s just something that can happen. The most important thing to do for both of these conditions is to diagnose and start treatment early. And not just for cosmetic reasons.
Treating hypodontia and oligodontia:
When a person is missing teeth, several things can happen:
- Their teeth can shift, causing misaligned bites and other tooth damage
- Their body can reabsorb the jawbone
- They may have trouble eating or speaking
These things can have a major effect on a person, from a dental and emotional standpoint. That’s why it’s so important to catch it early so your dentist can begin a treatment plan. While we can’t force the missing teeth to grow, they can be replaced. Dental implants, dentures, crowns, and bridges can all be used to fill in any missing teeth. If left alone for too long, the teeth that shift will need to be moved back into their proper positions with braces or other means before any replacement teeth can be installed.
Missing wisdom teeth:
There is a small percentage of the population that never develop some (or all) of their wisdom teeth. This isn’t a bad thing at all! That’s one (or more) less teeth for the oral surgeon to remove. Like hypodontia, missing wisdom teeth is caused by a genetic anomaly. Thousands of years ago, a mutation developed that suppressed the formation of wisdom teeth. Fossils have been found in China dating back 300,000 to 400,000 years old that are missing third molars. So this mutation has been around for a while.
If any of these apply to you, it’s nothing that could have been prevented, as it happened on the genetic level. The important thing is to have the teeth replaced before any other issues develop. Call Dr. Chauvin’s office if you have more questions!