We commonly come across people who have considerably small teeth, relative to their facial profile and physique, and often wonder why this happens…
This condition is referred to microdontia, and it occurs because of developmental anomalies encountered during tooth development, leading to abnormalities in tooth size.
What is it?
‘Micro’ means small and ‘dontia’ means a state relating to teeth. So the haunty sounding word ‘microdontia’ means having small teeth. A person who has one or more teeth smaller than normal is said to have a case of microdontia. Such small teeth are called, by specialists, microdontic teeth or simply microdonts. Microdonts can have normal or abnormal morphology. They can have a regular shape but a small size, or may be regular in size and have a triangular shape. In many cases, these small teeth have small roots, while the crown may be near normal.
There are three types of microdontia:
- Localized microdontia
- Relatively generalized microdontia
- Truly generalized microdontia
Localized microdontia, as the name suggests, means only one tooth is affected. Normally, it would be an upper lateral incisor or a third molar. The cause could be facial hemiatrophy or an incidence of a supernumerary tooth. Supernumerary, in ordinary language, means an extra. Facial hemiatrophy means that one side of the face is smaller than the other in some manner.
Truly generalized microdontia, on the other hand, involves all the teeth of the patient. A normal sized tooth would be an exception. Truly generalized microdontia is rare. The condition may be caused by pituitary dwarfism or Down’s syndrome. It may also be caused by the effects of chemotherapeutic and radiation treatment during the tooth development age.
Relatively generalized condition is not real microdontia, rather, it is an illusion. If slightly smaller than normal teeth exist on an abnormally large jaw they would appear small. Such a state can occur when the subject has inherited a larger than normal jaw from one of the parents, and the tooth size from the other parent.
Read about tooth color and genetics here.
Microdontia has two disadvantages. Firstly, small teeth detract from the appearance of the person. Whether localized or generalized, microdontia becomes a facial defect and gives the owner a social disadvantage. It is likely to be a greater disadvantage to females than males, even in emancipated western societies.
Secondly, there are likely to be void spaces around a microdont. Neighboring teeth are likely to shift, partially filling the gap but creating spaces on the other side. Or the tooth may slant to the side. This can cause malocclusion. It may also pose more problems in routine cleaning.
Teeth with small roots may not be suitable candidates for support in dental bridges etc.
For children with primary dentition, the routine method for correction of microdontia is placing temporary crowns. Temporary crowns are placed on teeth of children, provided the roots are strong enough to support the crown. These temporary crowns will help the teeth hold their places and avoid shifting.
Another possibility is placing suitable type of space maintainers till the time permanent teeth erupt. Supernumerary microdonts can simply be removed to create space for the other regular teeth. Microdontia treatment for adults may involve dental implants with crowns or bridges of the normal size.
If you have microdontia or suspect it in your child, consider calling our Arlington office and scheduling an exam. Once we know the landscape of your mouth, we can make a plan that’s perfect for you.