Hypodontia is a dental term that refers to congenitally missing permanent teeth. This means that some of the permanent teeth fail to develop, so when the baby teeth fall out, there is nothing underneath to replace them. Hypodontia is very common among people with Down syndrome. Here are three things parents need to know about Down syndrome and hypodontia.
How common is hypodontia?
Hypodontia is a very common problem for people with Down syndrome. A Canadian study of 25 children with Down syndrome found that 92% of them were suffering from hypodontia. The female patients were missing an average of 5.38 permanent teeth, while the males were missing an average of 4.10.
To put these numbers into perspective, the prevalence of hypodontia in the general population is between 3% and 7%.
How is hypodontia diagnosed?
Hypodontia is diagnosed through x-ray imaging. Your dentist will take x-rays of your child's mouth to see if any of their permanent teeth are missing.
The dentist can take a panoramic x-ray to make your child more comfortable during the procedure. Unlike traditional dental x-rays, panoramic x-rays don't require the patient to bite down on a plastic film. Since people with Down syndrome can have a strong gag reflex, not needing to put anything in your child's mouth will make the experience much more pleasant for them. These x-rays also produce an image quickly, which makes them a good choice for children with short attention spans.
In this panoramic image, your dentist will be able to see all of your child's permanent teeth beneath their gums and will be able to easily identify any missing teeth.
How is hypodontia treated?
Once your child's permanent teeth have all erupted, they may require orthodontic treatment to move the teeth into their proper positions. This is because teeth may drift out of place to fill any open spaces. Orthodontic treatment includes familiar techniques like retainers and braces.
Once the teeth have been repositioned, dental implants can be placed in the gaps left by the missing permanent teeth. These implants are surgically attached to the jawbone and are permanent, so your child will have them for the rest of their life. People with Down syndrome are good candidate for dental implants as long as they're able to maintain good oral hygiene, either alone or with the help of a caregiver.
If your child has Down syndrome, they may have hypodontia and should be examined by a dentist (like Dr. Jon Douglas Lesan, DDS, RpH, PA or another professional) as soon as possible.