Recently, there was a really crazy story in the news about a seven-year-old boy in Chennai, India. He went to the hospital because he was experiencing swelling and pain in his jaw, and when they went in to operate, they found over 500 teeth… 526 to be exact! One unerupted tooth, also referred to as an odontoma, is pretty common. However, it is extremely rare to have this many unerupted teeth! This is by far the most extreme case that’s ever been documented.
I thought this news story was a good excuse to talk a little bit more about odontomas. A lot of parents have questions about when their children’s teeth are going to come in. Many of parents and patients wonder if everything is progressing normally, especially when there seems to be a delay. So, let’s take a few minutes to talk about it in this blog!
What Exactly is an Odontoma?
Technically, an odontoma is an oral tumor, which makes it sound much more serious than it really is. It’s noncancerous, and it’s basically just an abnormal tissue growth. They’re often made up of the same materials that make up the rest of your teeth, like enamel, dentin, and cementum. They usually form in the jaw, typically around the ages of 14-24.
There are two types of odontomas: compound and complex. Without getting super technical, compound odontomas look more like actual teeth, whereas complex odontomas might just be small fragments of tissue or mass that doesn’t look like teeth. The boy with 526 extra teeth had a compound odontoma. All of those tumors that were removed actually resembled real teeth! I think that makes this story even more unbelievable!
Because there are generally little to no symptoms with an odontoma, we often find them during a routine x-ray. However, sometimes there is pain, like what happened with the little boy in India. He was clearly dealing with a lot of tumors, so it’s understandable that there would be some pain associated with his odontomas. Typically, though, the patient will never even know they have one until their dentist shows it to them on an x-ray.
Are They Dangerous?
Not really. As I said above, these oral tumors are benign, or noncancerous. However, in some cases we may recommend removing the odontoma so that normal tooth development can resume. Based on the x-rays we take, we can determine if the unerupted tooth (or teeth) will have an impact on the normal eruption of your other teeth.
If we do have to remove the tooth, we’ll work alongside an oral surgeon. If it is an adult tooth, we can discuss some different options for replacing the tooth, for example with an implant and a crown, or possibly a bridge. Once we remove the odontomas, they’re gone for good and you’ll never have to worry about them again!
If you have any concerns about odontomas, or just want to schedule an x-ray to make sure nothing unexpected is happening in your mouth, give us a call. Inspire Dental Wellness in Orland Park is proud to provide dentistry for the entire family. We would be so honored to be your number one dental choice. Connect with us today to schedule an appointment or consultation!