Anodontia is the medical term for complete absence of teeth. People with anodontia don’t have natural teeth because they never developed them. The condition often appears alongside other genetic conditions, such as ectodermal dysplasia. Common treatments include dentures and dental implants.
Anodontia is the complete absence of teeth. It’s a rare form of dental agenesis — a term healthcare providers use to describe congenitally missing teeth. (“Congenitally” means you’re born with the condition.)
People with anodontia don’t have teeth because their teeth never developed. This condition can involve both primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth. Many people with anodontia also have another genetic condition called ectodermal dysplasia, which can cause abnormalities that affect teeth, hair, nails and sweat glands.
Some people are born missing some, but not all, of their teeth. Hypodontia, another type of dental agenesis, is the absence of one to six teeth. Oligodontia is the absence of six or more teeth. You might hear people refer to hypodontia and oligodontia as partial anodontia.
People with anodontia often have difficulty chewing and speaking. Without the ability to properly chew food, this can have a negative impact on digestive health. Anodontia can also result in gum damage and inadequate jawbone growth. This lack of bone growth can make your jaw appear smaller than it should be.
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The main symptom of anodontia is the absence of all natural teeth.
Because anodontia often occurs alongside ectodermal dysplasia, other symptoms may include:
Very rarely, anodontia occurs without ectodermal dysplasia. In these cases, experts believe the condition is due to an unknown genetic mutation (change).
In simple terms, anodontia is the result of a genetic mutation that affects your dental lamina (a band of tissue under your gums where your teeth form). People with anodontia inherit it from their parents in an autosomal recessive pattern. This means that two copies of an abnormal gene — one from each biological parent — are necessary for the condition to develop.
Healthcare providers may suspect anodontia if your baby doesn’t develop teeth by the time they’re 13 months old. To confirm the diagnosis, they’ll take dental X-rays to look for teeth that haven’t grown in yet. If the X-rays don’t show teeth, then your child probably has anodontia.
Healthcare providers treat anodontia with teeth replacement options. Common treatments include:
Dentures are removable appliances that replace missing teeth. They rest on your gums for support. You can use dental adhesive to help keep them in place. Traditional dentures work well for children and adults with anodontia.
Dental implants are small, threaded posts that replace missing teeth roots. A surgeon places dental implants in your jawbone during an oral surgery procedure. Once your implants heal, your dentist can attach bridges or dentures to them, restoring your smile. To qualify for dental implants, you must have fully developed facial bones. For this reason, most children with anodontia wear dentures until they’re old enough for dental implants.
Because anodontia is a genetic condition, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. It’s important to know that even if you have anodontia, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll pass it on to your children.
Anodontia isn’t dangerous or life-threatening. But left untreated, it can interfere with eating and speaking. In addition, you might feel self-conscious about smiling or avoid social situations due to embarrassment. These factors can significantly limit your quality of life.
If you or your child has anodontia, your healthcare provider will design a personalized treatment plan that fits your needs and preferences.
As children grow, their mouths and oral structures change. If your child wears dentures, they’ll likely need new appliances every couple of years until their facial bones stop growing. Your dentist can tell you what to expect in your situation.
Anodontia isn’t dangerous, but you should talk to your healthcare provider if:
If you or your child has anodontia, here are some questions you may want to ask your dentist or healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Anodontia is a rare, congenital condition characterized by the absence of all teeth. Rarely, it can occur on its own. But in most cases, anodontia is a symptom of another genetic condition called ectodermal dysplasia, which can cause thinning hair, missing fingernails, a lack of sweat glands and other abnormalities. If you or your child has anodontia, talk to your healthcare provider about teeth replacement options that can restore the appearance, function and oral health of your or your child’s mouths.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/15/2022.
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