The lack of one or more secondary, or adult, teeth
- More common with increasing age
- More common in males
- In some cases, the cause is inherited
- Poor oral hygiene and playing contact sports are risk factors
Total absence of many or all of the secondary teeth is very rare. Failure of one or more teeth to develop is more common. Of all the teeth, the wisdom teeth are most likely to be absent, which may be an advantage as it reduces the risk of impaction (see Impacted teeth). The emergence of some teeth may be delayed by the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and in people with Down’s syndrome or those with certain other genetic conditions. A delay may also be due to impaction caused by overcrowding.
Teeth may be lost due to injury (see Avulsed tooth) or following tooth decay caused by neglect of oral hygiene (see Dental caries). The risk of tooth loss is higher in men because they play more contact sports such as boxing and rugby. If the secondary (adult) teeth are not present, adjacent teeth tend to grow into the remaining spaces, which may cause uneven teeth or malocclusion.
What might be done?
The dentist will check a child’s teeth during each checkup to make sure that all the teeth emerge. If one or more teeth are missing, he or she may take bite-wing X-rays to see if the teeth are absent or still in the jaw (see Dental checkup). If you lose a tooth, you should consult a dentist or go to an accident and emergency department at once.
Treatment depends on how many and which teeth are affected. If the teeth are held back or delayed by overcrowding, one or two teeth may be removed to make room for the others. A brace may be needed to move teeth into place or keep them locked in position until the missing teeth have emerged and have become established (see Orthodontic treatment). Teeth that have been lost can sometimes be reattached. If a tooth has failed to develop or one or more teeth have been lost, the missing tooth or teeth may be replaced (see Crowns and replacement teeth). Missing wisdom teeth are not replaced.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.