Dental Agenesis in Children: What You Should Know

Dental agenesis in children is the absence of one or more teeth in the child's mouth. This is due to the fact that it hasn't been formed.
Dental Agenesis in Children: What You Should Know
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by the dentist Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Dental agenesis is an oral problem that can affect both children and adults. It’s the lack of one or more teeth in the mouth. It can also be evidenced by the persistence of a temporary tooth that doesn’t fall out because there’s no permanent tooth to push it out. Keep reading to learn more about dental agenesis in children.

What is dental agenesis in children?

Dental agenesis in children is the lack of development of one or more dental elements. Thus, when the tooth doesn’t form inside the bone, the dentition of the child is incomplete. Although it can happen in both types of dentition, it’s more frequent in the definitive teeth. Wisdom teeth, lateral incisors, and premolars are the most affected elements.

The absence of the tooth in the mouth isn’t because it has come out or hasn’t erupted yet, but is still inside the bone. In the case of dental agenesis, the tooth has failed to develop altogether, therefore, it doesn’t exist.

Types of dental agenesis in children

Depending on the affected dental elements, dental agenesis in children can be classified into the following types:

  • Hypodontia: Between 1 and 5 teeth are missing in isolation. This is the most common.
  • Oligodontia: This is the absence of more than 6 dental elements in the arch. The teeth that did erupt usually present anomalies.
  • Anodontia: This is the most severe form of dental agenesis in children and is the total absence of teeth in the mouth.

Dental agenesis in children can also be differentiated between unilateral, when it affects only one side of the mouth, or bilateral, when occurs on both sides.

A girl smiling with no front teeth.
Hypodontia is the lack of 1 to 5 teeth in isolation. The most serious agenesis is anodontia, as it’s the absence of all teeth.

Causes of dental agenesis in children

There are many factors that can act during the period of tooth formation and cause agenesis in children. Some of them may be the following:

  • Hereditary component: Determines the lack of formation of one or more teeth in several members of the family.
  • Genetic component and chromosomal alterations: Agenesis in children is usually associated with other conditions such as cleft lip, Down syndrome, or ectodermal dysplasia.
  • The action of some harmful agent in the mother during the gestation period: This disorder can be linked to infectious processes or diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis, rickets, rubella, and malnutrition, especially in the first trimester of gestation.

How does dental agenesis affect the oral health of the child?

Each of the dental elements that make up the arch have a specific space and function in the mouth. The lack of one or more teeth alters the balance, functionality, and aesthetics of the oral cavity. The appearance of the smile may be the most obvious manifestation. One or more gaps in the mouth can be a cause for teasing or embarrassment and affect the child’s self-esteem and social development.

In addition, the absence of a tooth alters the development of chewing and speech. At the same time, the dental elements that are present in the mouth suffer modifications in their position to compensate for the absence. Thus, dental malposition and bite problems are other consequences of dental agenesis in children.

Diagnosis and treatments

Due to the consequences that dental agenesis causes in children, early detection allows for the prevention of many of the problems we’ve mentioned. Dental visits from an early age and on a frequent basis play a very important role in diagnosing this disorder in time.

A child in a denist chair looking at his teeth in the mirror.
Detecting dental agenesis in time can avoid many problems. Therefore, it’s important to visit the dentist every so often from an early age.

Possible treatments

The treatments to be performed will depend on the type of dentition affected, the number of missing teeth, and the age of the child. In addition, it’s pertinent to consider the size of the teeth present in the mouth, the facial structure of the child, and if there are malocclusions to correct.

Many times, the solution is to close the space produced by agenesis through orthodontic treatment. The appliance mobilizes and aligns the other teeth until the gap is closed. Then, it may be necessary to grind the teeth to give them the corresponding shape according to the space they occupy. In other cases, professionals may consider it appropriate to use a space maintainer for the placement of an implant or a prosthesis in adulthood.

If baby teeth persist in the mouth due to the absence of a definitive substitute, it’s important to keep them healthy. Preventive measures that allow them to remain in the oral cavity without getting sick or deteriorating are the most indicated.

When to visit the dentist?

It’s best to start visiting the pediatric dentist from the first year of life and continue with biannual check-ups. This makes it possible to detect any problems in the child’s mouth and to follow up on the eruption of teeth and the development of the mouth. In any case, if at 3 years of age your child still doesn’t have 20 baby teeth, you should consult with a professional. You can also do so if the temporary teeth don’t fall out at the expected age or the permanent teeth don’t appear after the milk teeth have fallen out.

It may be due to your child’s own rhythm of growth and dental eruption. But dental agenesis in children is also a possibility. Detecting it early will help you choose the best treatment options for your child.

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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.