Is there anything spookier than poor oral hygiene? We sure don’t think so! The thought of all that candy, chocolate, pop, and sugar is enough to make any dentist’s skin crawl.
Admittedly not everyone is haunted by the thoughts of poor oral hygiene but believe it or not, Halloween and dentistry intersect because of more than just sugar induced cavities. In fact, many people think that a misunderstanding of ectodermal dysplasia may be at the root of vampire folklore.
Vampires have been a long-standing Halloween favourite for decades. We know that modern vampire stories like Twilight are based on legends like Dracula and folklore from Eastern Europe in the 17th and 18th century, but what if there was some truth behind the legends?
The truth is that the folklore around vampires most likely originated from society’s misunderstanding of a medical condition called ectodermal dysplasia – a catchall name for as many as 150 conditions which all involve the ectodermal structures (which includes skin cells and pigment cells). These related conditions are all heritable (meaning they can be passed down from parent to child) and result in abnormalities in ectodermal structures such as the sweat glands, hair, teeth, nails, and craniofacial structure.
Worldwide there are about 7,000 people living with ectodermal dysplasia, although it is more common among people of European descent.
Many people with ectodermal dysplasia:
Pale skin, sharp teeth, pointed ears, need to avoid the sun… sound familiar? Vampires are clearly just a myth, and no one with ectodermal dysplasia (or anyone at all for that matter) should ever be treated any differently because of their appearance, but there may very well be a link between the condition and ancient lore. It would not be surprising if uneducated people hundreds of years ago turned their own fear and superstition about people with ectodermal dysplasia into a myth.
People with ectodermal dysplasia live normal lives but have to take certain special precautions like avoiding the sun, avoiding abrasions on their skin and preventing themselves from overheating.
Pointed and over-spaced teeth are a common problem for people with ectodermal dysplasia, and while we all enjoy dressing up for Halloween now and again, having ‘monster teeth’ every day of the year can be difficult. Not only are there practical issues involved with conical teeth and large gaps, but often such abnormalities can lead to injury to the tongue and gums. For this reason, many people with this disorder have their teeth capped.