It’s common for someone to be missing a tooth or even two teeth. Some studies report about 20% of all adults are congenitally missing at least one tooth. More than 5% of us lack one or more second premolars or upper second (lateral) incisors. Though, numerous missing teeth, is less common.
Leads to Diagnosis
When someone is missing more than two teeth, the dentist should consider an ectodermal dysplasia diagnosis. This excludes wisdom teeth or third permanent molars.
In many cases, a dentist is the one who makes the initial diagnosis of ectodermal dysplasia when a child presents with multiple missing teeth.
Families may think missing teeth is a just a family trait. While true, the more teeth you are missing, the more likely it is to be part of a more complex genetic disorder. A woman who is missing one or two teeth could be an ectodermal dysplasia gene carrier.
Individuals affected by ectodermal dysplasias may have misshapen teeth. The teeth might be pointed or conical in shape.
A dentist may have never seen or treated a patient with ectodermal dysplasia. It is likely they covered in dental school. Yet, they have never have seen a patient. Therefore, they may not initially consider an ectodermal dysplasia diagnosis.
According to Timothy Wright, D.D.S., M.S., pediatric dentist at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, the failure of one or more teeth to form is a common developmental disturbance seen in humans.
Teeth form from the oral ectoderm and thus are frequently affected in association with hereditary conditions that affect the ectodermal tissues. When an individual has small or misshapen or missing teeth, it is possible and should be explored as to whether they also have one of the forms of ectodermal dysplasia. – Dr. Wright
In 2004, we worked with Frank Farrington, D.D.S., M.S., Emeritus Professor of Pediatric Dentistry, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. We surveyed our families about their dental issues. He found most people with the hypohidrotic (i.e. diminished sweating) forms of ectodermal dysplasias reported missing teeth.
Treating Missing Teeth
There are many different options for dental care to replace the missing teeth. The dental treatment options vary depending on the person’s age and dentition. You can learn more about age appropriate treatment options in our Parameters for Oral Health Care for Individuals Affected by Ectodermal Dysplasias. Depending on the number of missing teeth, the dentist may want to
- use a partial bridge,
- an over-denture,
- dental implants or
- a complete set of dentures.
There may be several treatment options you or your loved one can consider. When you see your dentist, make sure you ask about all possible treatment options. This will help you make the best decision for you and your family.
The most important thing is you seek treatment. We strongly believe children with missing teeth should get their first set of dentures before starting school.
Paying for Missing Teeth
If you live in the United States, fall and knock out some of your teeth, your insurance company will pay to restore those teeth. If you are born with a genetic condition and develop few if any teeth, typically the insurance company will not pay for the care. They deem it cosmetic. Getting the company to pay likely will take a major effort and battle.
To support you in this battle, the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias has an Insurance Tool Kit. The kit will be very helpful to you when you are ready to submit your dental treatment to your medical insurance. Our motto is “Don’t give up!” Ask the Kennedy family who got coverage for dental care for their four children.
We are launching an advocacy campaign to get insurance legislation in all 50 states. Our goal is to mandate coverage for the treatment of missing teeth due to ectodermal dysplasia. We strongly believe teeth are not just cosmetic! Replacing missing teeth is medically necessary. We believe every person with ectodermal dysplasia deserves the Power to Smile, eat, and speak with confidence! Join us on July 19th for Ectodermal Dysplasias Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.
Dental treatment is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for individuals affected by ectodermal dysplasias. These challenges include
- finding a dental provider,
- getting an appropriate treatment plan, and
- finding the resources to pay for this treatment.
We have resources to help you at every step along the way!