Why Am I Missing a Permanent Tooth?

On average, we will grow and lose 20 baby teeth. As they fall out, we will grow, on average, 32 permanent teeth. But that’s just the average. Did you know that not all people have 32 (or 28, if wisdom teeth are removed) permanent teeth? Perhaps you are one of them. The most common reason for this occurrence is a developmental abnormality called hypodontia.

Typically, those with hypodontia will be missing six or fewer teeth (missing more than 6 teeth is called oligodontia, and missing all permanent teeth is called anodontia). This happens because the teeth fail to develop.

If you have hypodontia and are feeling bad for yourself, don’t. It’s estimated that 20% of adults are born with at least one tooth missing—making hypodontia one of the most common developmental conditions having to do with your mouth. Interestingly, hypodontia is more prevalent in the case of identical twins. It is also more common in women than it is in men. 

Hypodontia is usually an inherited trait, though environmental factors have been known to play a role. Some of them are low birth weight, incidences of rubella, maternal smoking, and advanced maternal age. Thankfully, there are treatments available. They include implants, orthodontic braces and appliances, and dental prosthetics. When the gap between the teeth is small, dentists can bond tooth-colored fillings to the teeth, closing the gap.

Treatments for children are a little different than treatment for adults. Since children have less-developed jaws, it isn’t recommended that they receive implants. Dentists may recommend keeping the baby tooth in the child’s mouth until it falls out, or, if it remains healthy, leave it in. In fact, if a baby tooth is properly cared for, it can last a lifetime. If preserving the baby tooth is impossible, dentists will use braces to pull other permanent teeth toward each other, closing the gap created by the missing tooth.

If you are a parent who is missing a permanent tooth, make sure to tell your child’s dentist about it. Since hypodontia is genetic, your children will be at a greater risk for developing the abnormality.