There are many different dental symptoms found in the ectodermal dysplasias, typically originating in the crown of the tooth.
Parts of the Tooth
A tooth has two parts: the crown and the root. The crown of a tooth is covered with enamel and visible in the mouth. The crown is what you see when you smile or open your mouth. The root is embedded in the jaw, anchoring the tooth in its bony socket and normally not visible.
Enamel is the hard outer layer of the crown and the hardest substance in the body. Enamel, the first layer of the crown, is the part of the tooth that is derived from the ectoderm. Therefore, enamel problems are common dental symptoms that may occur in ectodermal dysplasias. The enamel may be thinner and softer than average, and thin, soft enamel may lead to increased cavities. There could also be small pitted dentations in the enamel and discoloration of the tooth.
In some forms of ectodermal dysplasia, the saliva or spit production may be reduced, leading to dry mouth. This can also put the individual at increased risk for tooth decay.
The structure of the teeth can also be affected. The teeth may be globe-shaped and smaller than average. Those teeth that are smaller than average may look conical, pointed, tapered or pegged in shape. Sometimes, the pointed teeth can be especially sharp, creating problems.
The root of the tooth can also be abnormally shaped. The center of the tooth, between the crown and the tooth’s root canals (called the pulp chambers), might be larger than average. This gives the roots an abnormal shape, known as taurodontia.
Teeth may come in later than expected, and the pattern that they come in may be different than usual. The position of the teeth and jaw may also be abnormal in ectodermal dysplasias.
In many of the ectodermal dysplasias, affected individuals many have hypodontia, one of the teeth symptoms characterized by missing teeth. Individuals may be missing a few teeth or have a complete absence of teeth (also known as anodontia).
The pattern of missing teeth is often syndrome-specific. Within specific types of ectodermal dysplasias, the teeth involved are usually the same in one affected individual as in another with the disorder. However, this is not always the case.
Alveolar Ridges and Bone
When teeth are absent, the ridge-like border of the upper and lower jaws containing the sockets of the teeth, called alveolar ridges, are often underdeveloped. Development of the alveolar bone accompanies tooth bud formation. And, without tooth bud formation, the alveolar bone formation will also be abnormal.
The lack of an alveolar bone and teeth can result in a narrow, pointed chin. These dental symptoms can also cause speech problems and difficulty with chewing and swallowing.
The dental symptoms for ectodermal dysplasias can be very complex. They often require a team of dental specialists to manage the treatment.
To view this information in a PDF format, download our Dental Symptoms Guide.