Many people are used to the idea of a tooth that feels superfluous. As we enter adulthood, our wisdom teeth come in, & a good chunk of us can’t fit them into our bite, leading to these molars being pulled. But some people experience an even greater abundance of teeth called supernumerary teeth, which are teeth beyond the full two sets we are used to.
Risk Factors & Diagnosis
Supernumerary teeth are caused by a condition called hyperdontia. They can occur in anyone, however, certain things like Gardner’s syndrome, Down syndrome or being born with a cleft lip can increase the chance of having extra teeth. The exact cause for hyperdontia is unknown, but scientists have provided theories for local genetic hyperactivity & hereditary factors.
Supernumerary teeth are most common in adults but can also be present in children. Digital x-rays can identify these teeth & allow you & your dentist time to create a treatment plan. Often, these teeth have the potential to disrupt a healthy bite, so extraction may be necessary. However, in children, these teeth may be hard to notice when they come in, as they may be properly aligned, which makes a full exam even more important.
Types of Teeth
There are several types of supernumerary teeth. Some, called supplemental, look like normal teeth. Most though, fall into a category of tooth that is malformed in some way. The most common shape of supernumerary teeth in adults is conical, & they typically occur near incisors. In children, the most common type is the mesiodens, which form between the upper front two teeth.
Barrel-shaped teeth called “tuberculates” can be impacted in the gums near incisors as well. Molariform teeth, as the name suggests, are typically near the premolar & molar teeth.
Since crowding, impacted adult & baby teeth & other health problems can occur as the result of hyperdontia, treatment is often recommended early. Extraction is the typical recommendation. Dentists have a full array of sedation techniques to help even the most anxious patients, though, & the procedure is often able to be done in one visit. Healing times can vary depending on the amount of supernumerary teeth & their positions, & your dentist will have detailed home care instructions to help prevent secondary infection & make recovery as fast as possible.
While rare—studies show between less than 1% & 4% of people are affected—hyperdontia is one of many reasons why taking your child to get regular checkups, & going as an adult, can save you from pain, & save you money & time down the road.