Dental agenesis: genetic and clinical perspectives


Prof. Dr. Peter J. De Coster, Dental School – Poli 8, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.
Tel: +32 9 3329461, Fax: +32 9 3323851, E-mail:


Dental agenesis is the most common developmental anomaly in humans and is frequently associated with several other oral abnormalities. Whereas the incidence of missing teeth may vary considerably depending on dentition, gender, and demographic or geographic profiles, distinct patterns of agenesis have been detected in the permanent dentition. These frequently involve the last teeth of a class to develop (I2, P2, M3) suggesting a possible link with evolutionary trends. Hypodontia can either occur as an isolated condition (non-syndromic hypodontia) involving one (80% of cases), a few (less than 10%) or many teeth (less than 1%), or can be associated with a systemic condition or syndrome (syndromic hypodontia), essentially reflecting the genetically and phenotypically heterogeneity of the condition. Based on our present knowledge of genes and transcription factors that are involved in tooth development, it is assumed that different phenotypic forms are caused by different genes involving different interacting molecular pathways, providing an explanation not only for the wide variety in agenesis patterns but also for associations of dental agenesis with other oral anomalies. At present, the list of genes involved in human non-syndromic hypodontia includes not only those encoding a signaling molecule (TGFA) and transcription factors (MSX1 and PAX9) that play critical roles during early craniofacial development, but also genes coding for a protein involved in canonical Wnt signaling (AXIN2), and a transmembrane receptor of fibroblast growth factors (FGFR1). Our objective was to review the current literature on the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for selective dental agenesis in humans and to present a detailed overview of syndromes with hypodontia and their causative genes. These new perspectives and future challenges in the field of identification of possible candidate genes involved in dental agenesis are discussed.