Hypodontia is a condition in which children fail to develop all their permanent teeth. The risk that children will develop this condition may be increased by mothers’ smoking during pregnancy, according to a new study from the University of Otago.
For this study, researchers looked at 83 children with hypodontia and 253 children without hypodontia. They talked to their mothers, asking them to report active and passive smoking, alcohol drinking, and caffeine consumption during pregnancy. They also collected demographic data, such as mother’s age when the child was born, the child’s sex, term of delivery, and socio-economic status.
After correcting for demographic factors, researchers looked at alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use during pregnancy to see if any of them had an impact on the risk of hypodontia. Neither alcohol nor caffeine had a relationship, but tobacco smoking seemed to have a direct relationship. The more cigarettes a mother smoked, the higher the risk of hypodontia.
Not the Only Anomaly Related to Smoking
Researchers admit that more research is needed to show that this orofacial anomaly is related to smoking, but the study joins evidence that smoking can increase risk of dentofacial defects, such as cleft lip and cleft palate. They say it is plausible that smoking causes damage to neural crest cells in developing embryos.
This research further emphasizes the need for women to seek help to quit smoking during pregnancy. It can help not only their children’s oral health, but their own. Smoking increases a person’s risk for tooth loss by a factor of three or more. And if a person tries to replace their lost teeth with dental implants, smoking can increase the risk of implant failure.
The good news is that hypodontia can be treated. There are many potential treatment options.
Sometimes, orthodontics is used to maneuver teeth into the spaces left by missing teeth. This used to be the best option because it maintained the integrity of the natural teeth and gave a replacement tooth that could last for life. The disadvantage is that the moved teeth look out of place because they don’t have the right shape (such as canines instead of incisors).The moved tooth can also be reshaped with a veneer or crown to the get a more attractive appearance.
Sometimes a dental bridge can be used to replace the missing tooth. This is a durable, functional treatment option, but it does require healthy teeth be modified to support dental crowns. This increases the risk that those teeth might be lost, especially when the treatment is done at a young age.
Nowadays, dental implants are our best option for treating hypodontia. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that supports an attractive dental crown. The result is a long-lasting, possibly permanent tooth replacement that looks and functions just like a natural tooth.