Hyperdontia: What You Need to Know

Both humans and mammals have a set number of teeth that they should have, including both primary (baby) teeth and permanent (adult) teeth.  It is an anatomical abnormality for someone to not have this specific number.  These abnormalities include cases in which people have more than the “normal” number of teeth and those in which people have less.  These conditions may stand alone, or they may be associated with various syndromes or genetic abnormalities.

What is Hyperdontia?

Hyperdontia literally means too many teeth.  A normal, healthy human child has twenty baby teeth, and a healthy human adult has thirty-two permanent teeth.  The condition of hyperdontia means that a person has more teeth than these normal numbers.

While having fewer than the normal number of teeth (referred to as hypodontia) is more prevalent, a single “extra” tooth is very common.  Some people also experience multiple extra teeth in various areas of the upper and lower jaws.  We often refer to these additional teeth as “supernumerary”.

One of the more common types of hyperdontia is a single extra tooth that develops between the upper front teeth, usually on the roof of the mouth, called a mesiodens.  These commonly occur during adolescence.  Other common areas of hyperdontia include the premolar and wisdom tooth regions.

The “extra” teeth of hyperdontia are rarely normal, full-sized teeth.  They typically have a smaller size and an abnormal shape.  Many lack well-developed root structure.  If they do push through the gums into a position where they are visible, which is uncommon, they are not likely to appear normal.

What Causes Hyperdontia?

Hyperdontia is the result of a malfunction in the tooth formation process.  In many cases, this malfunction is simple and unexplained.  As a new tooth is forming, the wrong cells replicate and develop an “extra” tooth.

In other cases, the developmental malfunction has underlying causes, which may include genetic abnormalities or conditions affecting other tissues in the body.  Because the formation of teeth is closely related to the formation of bone, some conditions or syndromes will affect them both, like cleidocranial dysplasia.  When the cause of hyperdontia is an underlying problem, doctors can typically detect that underlying problem before anyone notices problems with the teeth.  It is rare that hyperdontia would be the first sign of a problem because of the age at which teeth erupt into the mouth.

How is Hyperdontia Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of hyperdontia is quite simple.  If the extra tooth or teeth have made their way into the mouth, the dentist can diagnose with a quick visual examination.  Your dentist knows how many teeth each person should have at his or her age and also easily recognizes abnormally shaped or sized teeth.

For those extra teeth that have not yet erupted through the gums, the dentist can detect them through dental x-rays and three-dimensional imaging like CBCT.  Hyperdontia can show up on dental x-rays at a very early age.  By having your children see a dentist consistently, you will catch any “extra” teeth as early as possible.

It is unlikely that your dentist would be the first to notice any underlying conditions that could lead to hyperdontia (simply because the child’s medical doctor probably detected issues earlier in life, before the teeth come in). If there is reason to suspect such an underlying condition exists, your dentist will refer you to your medical doctor for assessment.

What Should I Do if My Child Has Hyperdontia?

When your dentist informs you that your child has additional teeth in excess of the normal number, he or she will also explain to you what you need to do about it.  The treatment recommended will depend on your child’s age.  There are cases in which you can delay any treatment until the child is older and/or more mature.

In most cases, the treatment necessary to “fix” the problem of hyperdontia is to remove the additional teeth through extraction.  These extractions can be very simple for supernumerary teeth that have come through the gums with underdeveloped root structures.  They can also be quite complex if the additional tooth is impacted into the jawbone or pressing into other vital anatomical structures, like nerves or neighboring tooth roots.

Why Do I Need to Do Anything about Hyperdontia?

Humans have a specific number of teeth for a reason.  Adding extra teeth to dental arches that are already too small to accommodate most wisdom teeth will lead to future problems.  There are multiple consequences that could arise from leaving supernumerary teeth in the mouth.

Orthodontic Crowding

The first and most likely consequence to having too many teeth in a dental arch is orthodontic crowding.  The upper and lower jaws are not large enough to make room for additional teeth.  Either these teeth will come into the mouth in a crooked position, or they will force their neighboring teeth into crooked positions.

You can prevent this crowding by removing the extra tooth or teeth early, allowing the proper teeth to come into alignment.

Damage to Neighboring Teeth

When an extra tooth remains in the jawbone, it can damage the adjacent teeth by applying pressure to the roots.  This leads to a process known as resorption.  As the extra tooth develops and leans into its neighboring tooth roots, that delicate root structure can simply dissolve.

Gum Inflammation and Infection

When extra teeth exist in the mouth, they are rarely in a natural alignment.  Instead, they erupt to one side of the nearest teeth, either on the side toward the lip and cheek or inside toward the tongue.  Typically, this will cause an arrangement that does not allow for healthy gum tissues.  Instead, the overlapped teeth trap large amounts of plaque buildup, which is very difficult to clean away.  This excessive plaque buildup leads to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and eventually full-blown gum disease (periodontitis), which is a spreading bacterial infection.

More Questions about Hyperdontia?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation for yourself or a loved you that you suspect of having hyperdontia. We can assess your situation and advise you of any abnormal tooth conditions.