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Haunted By Ghost Teeth? Find Out How Your Dentist Can Help

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Ghost teeth is a rare condition that affects the structure and appearance of a tooth. The scientific name for the condition is regional odontodysplasia. Although few people get this disease, the symptoms can present a serious dental challenge for patients, and dentists will often need to put in place a comprehensive treatment plan. Learn more about the causes and symptoms of regional odontodysplasia, and find out what treatment you should expect.


Regional odontodysplasia is a developmental disorder that affects dental tissues.

Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Small and/or strangely shaped teeth
  • Pits and grooves on the surface of the teeth
  • Yellow or brown discoloration
  • Delayed or failed tooth eruption
  • Tooth abscesses

When dentists investigate people with the condition using a radiograph, the teeth often take on an unusual ghost-like appearance in the images. This occurs because the enamel and dentin form in thin layers, leading to a faint, radiolucent appearance that gives rise to the condition's common name.

The condition is more likely to affect certain teeth. For example, teeth in the upper jaw tend to show symptoms twice as often as those in the lower jaw. What's more, the symptoms sometimes only appear on part of the affected tooth.

People with ghost teeth are at higher risk of abscesses and serious infections because the tooth structure is weak and the pulp chamber is generally larger.

Causes and risk factors

Scientists are not sure what causes the condition. Although dentists see few cases, females are generally at higher risk of the disease than males. Studies have shown no link between the disease and any specific ethnic groups.

Researchers have suggested that the condition may occur because of other underlying medical conditions. Circulatory disorders, viral infections and metabolic disturbances could all cause ghost teeth, but scientists are unable to confirm the exact causes. Indeed, some experts believe that the condition can occur following trauma to the mouth.


A physical examination may alert your dentist to the condition, but he or she will normally use a radiograph to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment options vary from one person to another, so a dentist will consider the age, medical history and current health of the patient. In children, certain treatment options are not always ideal, as they may interfere with tooth development and growth. For example, extracting a problematic tooth can sometimes cause problems with a child's jaw. Nonetheless, dentists will aim to do whatever they can to improve the integrity and appearance of affected teeth.

For fully erupted teeth, a dentist will often recommend endodontic treatment. A root canal treatment can empty out the pulp chamber, strengthen the tooth and seal off the cavity from bacterial infection.            

If it's not possible to avoid an extraction, the dentist will carefully consider the impact on tooth development. For example, if it's not possible to save an infected tooth, the dentist will normally opt to install a removable appliance. This helps maintain the tooth's appearance and function during development. Without this, children may experience overeruption of teeth on the opposite side of the mouth. In serious cases, the extraction could disrupt the child's facial symmetry.

It's generally easier to treat adults and older children with fully erupted teeth. In these cases, dentists can recommend permanent dental implants, as they don't need to worry about craniofacial development. Some people benefit from autotransplantation, where the dentist moves a tooth from one part of the mouth to replace another diseased or damaged tooth.

If a dentist diagnoses and treats the condition in the early stages, patients will normally go on to enjoy good dental health.

Although rare, the condition called ghost teeth can cause serious symptoms and dental complications. If you or a loved one shows signs of this disease, talk to your dentist for more advice. For more information, contact a local dental clinic like Schererville Family Dentistry, PC.