Dental Health Topics

The Link Between Missing Teeth and Ovarian Cancer

Communicating developments in emerging science can be a tricky business. The early dialogue is often riddled with synonyms of the word “possibly,” which, understandably, makes it difficult for the reader to form an opinion and act upon the research. Yet, despite these inherent inadequacies, when nascent research suggests a clinical outcome that could affect you personally, you owe it to yourself to stay on top of the news surrounding the issue. Such is the case if you’re among those with congenitally missing teeth – a condition known as hypodontia.

What Does Hypodontia Look Like?

People with congenitally missing teeth typically fall into two camps: those with a space where a permanent tooth should be, and those with a baby tooth still hanging on for dear life where a permanent tooth should be. If you’re like most adults with either type of smile, you likely never gave it much thought – it was always just something you got used to seeing in the mirror – an additional point of uniqueness, let’s say. However, the uniqueness of this condition may not end there.

Hypodontia, Genes and Cancer

Since the failed eruption of permanent teeth can stem from specific gene mutations, and some of those mutations can be linked to cancer (notably colon cancer, and possibly epithelial ovarian cancer), scientists undertook a study to explore the possibility of a connection between hypodontia and epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). The results of that 2008 study, showed a “statistical association” that implied women with EOC are 8.1 times more likely to have hypodontia than are women without EOC – an association the research team deemed “significant.”

How Can You Protect Yourself?

So what can you do with this information now? First, understand research is still ongoing. Future studies will need to capture a larger pool of subjects – and for a longer period of time – in order to support or contradict the current findings. Also, while it may seem logical to suggest early screenings, current recommendations advise against routine screening for ovarian cancer unless one is considered to be at “high risk.”

Assessing this risk, then, is something you may wish to do. Doing so involves conversations with your doctor about your familial history of cancer, familial hypodontia, and an examination of your individual genetic makeup via genetic testing and counseling. Your best place to start is by informing your doctor of any concern you may possess, and go from there.  Only in partnership with a well-informed and thoughtful physician can you choose the best preventative course that’s right for you.

If you’d like to stay on top of clinical trials exploring the possible link between hypodontia and EOC, watch out for new trials to be posted at the government’s Clinical Trials website, keep your dentist informed, and stay tuned at PatientConnect365 for future developments on this issue.