Cavities and gingivitis are the two conditions people think of in terms of their oral health. After all, they’re by far the most common. But what about the more rare diseases and conditions? While unlikely to affect most people who maintain good oral hygiene, it’s good to know these four rare maladies so that you can watch out for them.


A type of tooth agenesis, anodontia is a condition in which teeth are missing. It’s not that teeth fall out, but rather that they were never there in the first place. This condition may affect either the primary teeth or permanent adult teeth, but it usually occurs in permanent teeth.

When some of the permanent teeth have not appeared by the early teenage years, it could be anodontia. A simple x-ray by your dentist is all it takes to determine the issue.

Complete anodontia is extremely rare, and even the more common hypodontia, or partial anodontia, is infrequent. Hypodontia also involves shifts in the bone formation of the jaw, meaning extra space between the teeth is more common than completely missing them.

Common treatments include dentures, dental implants, or dental bridges. Hypodontia will every only affect 2–9% of the population. So while important to be aware of, it shouldn’t be a cause of concern for most people.

Oral Cancer

A lot of people fear “the big C” word, but oral cancer is, fortunately, quite rare. Signs of oral cancer include sores, lesions, continuous throat soreness, or loose teeth happening with no obvious cause (no trauma or gum disease).

Oral cancer used to be more common in older populations; however, recently younger demographics are showing higher rates. The Oral Cancer Foundation references research indicating this could be due to the rise of HPV or the use of chewing tobacco and other alternatives to cigarettes in younger populations.

Like most other cancers, treatment for oral cancer can include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy

Even though the rate of diagnosis is increasing in younger demographics, the rate of oral cancer in the general population remains at less than 1%, regardless of gender. Be sure to inspect your mouth regularly to look for abnormalities, and continue regular dentist appointments so your dentist can spot any potential issues early.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Occurring mostly in middle-aged or older women, burning mouth syndrome, or BMS, primarily involves a burning or tingling sensation in part or the entirety of the mouth.

If an older woman in your life is exhibiting symptoms like avoiding certain foods or changing their brushing habits, they may be affected. There are a variety of treatments depending on the cause, so a visit to the dentist is the best way to assess this condition.

Specific symptoms include:

  • A burning sensation that most commonly affects the tongue, but can also affect the lips, gums, throat, or entire mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Soreness
  • Potential changes in the ability to taste

Treatment for BMS depends on if it’s primary or secondary. Secondary means the BMS is caused by an underlying health issue, so treatment will involve addressing that concern. Primary BMS is usually treated with oral rinses, saliva replacements, or certain medications, potentially including antidepressants.

The American Academy of Oral Medicine estimates the rate of burning mouth syndrome to affect around 2% of the population, with disproportionately more women.

Amelogenesis Imperfecta

This is a genetic disease that affects the enamel of your teeth due to a malfunction in the proteins that build it. Teeth may be discolored, smaller than normal, overcrowded, or brittle. Decay is more rapid than normal and tooth loss can also occur. Tooth sensitivity and pain may also be present.


Specific symptoms include:

  • Lessening in the amount of enamel
  • Defects in the growth and maturation of the enamel
  • Defects in the formation of initial enamel
  • A slower growth rate of enamel

Treatment includes restorations, reconstructions, sealants, and adhesives. This rare condition affects around 0.007% of the population, or about 1 in 14,000 people.

Don’t Delay Your Oral Care

While it’s unlikely you have any of these rare diseases, proper oral hygiene is vital to maintain good dental health, especially to care for an aging mouth. brushing and flossing regularly are essential steps to ensuring your smile stays pristine.

Maintain a regularly scheduled dentist appointment every six months to deep clean and help spot potential problems early. Your dentist is as important as your family doctor. If it’s been 6 months or more, schedule your next appointment today.

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