What is tooth agenesis? Causes, consequences and treatment options for congenitally missing teeth

29 February · 4 minutes

Dental agenesis is a complex anomaly that refers to when certain teeth are missing and do not form. This anomaly can have a number of causes and related problems affecting oral health, and can refer to both missing baby teeth and permanent adult teeth. In this article, you will learn about tooth agenesis: what it is, the different types, the causes and problems associated with it, plus the different treatment options to correct it.

What is tooth agenesis?

Dental agenesis is otherwise known as congenitally missing teeth or tooth agenesis, and is a craniofacial anomaly in which one or more teeth fail to develop. It can lead to missing baby teeth and adult teeth. Dental agenesis is a dental pathology that can be caused by genetics or environmental factors and is one of the most common anomalies in dental development. Having no teeth or missing teeth can lead to consequences with the functionality of the teeth, not just aesthetics.

Missing teeth can lead to difficulty chewing, misalignment of the remaining teeth and increase the risk of problems with the temporomandibular joint. It can also affect speech development. It is therefore imperative to diagnose dental agenesis at an early stage and so that appropriate dental or orthodontic measures can be taken as soon as possible.

Types of dental agenesis: hypodontia, oligodontia, and anodontia

There are different types of dental agenesis which depend on the number of missing teeth:


The most common type of dental agenesis is hypodontia. The term hypodontia refers to when one to six permanent adult teeth, not including wisdom teeth, have not developed and are missing. The second premolars and upper lateral incisors are the teeth most commonly affected by hypodontia.


Oligodontia refers to a more severe form of dental agenesis where more than six adult teeth are missing. This type of tooth agenesis can be associated with genetic disorders. In most cases, oligodontia requires extensive dental treatment.


Anodontia is a rare type of dental agenesis in which the person affected has no teeth. Anodontia is usually part of a more complex issue and often requires more extensive interdisciplinary treatment.

Each type of tooth agenesis requires an individualized approach in both diagnosis and treatment, allowing for optimal results in both aesthetics and function.

Other conditions can be confused with dental agenesis which are explained below.

False instances of dental agenesis

Missing teeth or no teeth are issues that can affect many people, not just because of tooth agenesis, but because of non-genetic or external reasons which are often confused for tooth agenesis. Below we explore some of these reasons.

Tooth aplasia

Tooth aplasia occurs in cases where certain teeth do not touch each other, usually due to their placement in the jaw or unusual positions of the teeth. Tooth aplasia impedes the ability to chew and bite, and can affect the overall aesthetic of the teeth.

Tooth loss

Tooth loss can describe instances where teeth are missing due to trauma or disease, or when baby teeth are removed too early, thus affecting the development of permanent teeth.

Causes of congenitally missing teeth

The causes of tooth agenesis, for example, hypodontia, can be varied. Genetics can often lead to missing teeth, but the causes also often depend on different environmental factors.

A child smiling while showing their tooth agenesis.

Tooth agenesis or missing baby or milk teeth in children

In children, missing baby teeth, otherwise known as milk teeth, can come from hereditary causes. It's common to have patterns of tooth agenesis within families. Genetic disorders and syndromes, such as ectodermal dysplasia, could also play a role. Congenital factors, such as nutritional deficiencies or stress during pregnancy, could also increase the risk of missing baby teeth, such as missing incisors, in children.

Genetically missing permanent teeth: tooth agenesis in adults

Dental agenesis in adults refers to when permanent teeth do not erupt and are congenitally missing. Adults can have missing permanent teeth due to genetic factors.

There are additional causes of missing teeth in adults that should not be confused with true dental agenesis.

Tooth agenesis consequences: problems resulting from missing teeth

The problems associated with dental agenesis are both aesthetic and functional. Missing teeth can lead to aesthetic problems, which can affect self-confidence. Missing teeth can also cause issues with functionality, such as problems with chewing and speaking, and incorrect jaw movements. This can cause temporomandibular disorders and lead to the remaining teeth becoming worn down. Tooth agenesis can also increase the risk of malocclusion and other orthodontic problems.

How can I tell whether I have tooth agenesis?

Tooth agenesis is usually diagnosed by having a medical examination. First, the dentist will check to determine if any teeth are missing or not erupting as expected. X-rays, especially panoramic x-rays, are essential in confirming the diagnosis of dental agenesis, as they show if teeth are present in the jaw or not. In some cases, additional genetic testing may be recommended, especially if it’s suspected that teeth are missing for hereditary reasons. Early diagnosis is essential in ensuring that appropriate dental or orthodontic measures are taken on time.

A dentist examining a patient.

Treatment options for congenitally missing teeth: how to fix it

Patients who suffer from tooth agenesis often seek out treatment options for how to fix the problem of missing teeth. Treating congenitally missing teeth depends on several factors, such as the patient’s age, the number of missing teeth and their location, as well as the aesthetic and functional needs of the patient. Some popular treatment options for replacing or disguising missing teeth are listed below:

  • Dentures: For adults, dentures are often a viable option for improving dental function and aesthetics, especially in cases where the patient has no teeth.
  • Dental implants: Dental implants are an effective, permanent solution for many patients with missing teeth. They give patients a natural look and can help preserve the jaw bone.
  • Cosmetic dentistry: In some cases of dental agenesis, veneers or dental bonding can be used to improve the appearance of adjacent teeth.
  • Preventive treatments: Regular check-ups at the dentist and professional dental cleaning are essential for maintaining the health of the remaining teeth and to detect any potential problems as soon as possible.
  • Interdisciplinary treatment: In very complex cases, especially when dental agenesis is part of a broader condition, interdisciplinary treatment may be necessary. This type of treatment involves experts from different medical fields.
  • Braces and aligners for missing teeth: For children and young adults with missing teeth due to dental agenesis, braces or other orthodontic treatments like clear aligners, may be recommended so that the remaining teeth can be moved to an optimal position and to create space for any tooth replacements that may be needed in the future.

Straighten your teeth with aligners from Impress

Impress aligners are an innovative and discreet treatment for patients with dental agenesis. Impress clear aligners are customized and can correct the position of the teeth. This is particularly important to ensure that jaw movements are evenly distributed and also for improving dental aesthetics. Aligners from Impress are suitable for teenagers and adults and can be adapted for patients with missing teeth so that they can improve the function of the teeth and achieve the aesthetic they’re looking for.

If you are interested in our removable orthodontic treatments, visit an Impress clinic near you where you can meet the team of professionals who will oversee your treatment. You can also book an appointment online, by phone on 888.490.1421, or by writing to careteam@uniformteeth.com.

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