Tooth Anomalies Often Are Hereditary and Harmless

Dentistry Today
Photo by Thomas Viccaro.

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Photo by Thomas Viccaro.

When a child has a dental anomaly such as the delayed eruption of adult teeth, parents often worry that it’s a sign of more serious health issues. Yet researchers at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine are eager to reassure them that, most of the time, it’s not. A recent study there found that most of these anomalies are hereditary and not problematic. 

“These things can be very traumatic for patients, especially if the tooth is in front of the arch,” said assistant professor Maxine Strickland, DMD. “When they find out that it’s something that can be traced back through their family pedigree tree, they were able to understand that it’s just a part of their child’s development and that’s normal for them, which takes some of the fear out of it.”

Strickland worked with students at the dental school to review more than 2,000 panoramic radiographs to explore the genetic causes of tooth anomalies, including delayed erupting teeth, missing teeth, or supernumerary teeth. They also examined teeth that simply fail to erupt or would only partially erupt into the occlusion. 

“One mom thought that it was a really amazing service we performed,” said Strickland. “Just knowing that someone would go to what seemed to her all this trouble, that they cared enough to sit down and explain to her and her child meant a lot.”

With a $6,000 grant from the Rutgers Health Foundation, Strickland and her students worked with 25 patients to create an inheritance family tree to see if similar anomalies had turned up in previous generations. They found a correlation between the dominant inheritance patterns and teeth that failed to erupt.

“The pattern was that if one parent had it, at least one child could have it also,” said Strickland, adding that parents were encouraged that they were able to then plan for a more expensive treatment determination.

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