Historical Perspectives in Pathology

Head and Neck Pathology

pp 1-5

First online:

Dental Stigmata of Congenital Syphilis: A Historic Review With Present Day Relevance

  • Eranga H. Nissanka-JayasuriyaAffiliated withHead and Neck / Oral Pathology, Guy’s Hospital, King’s College London Email author View author's OrcID profile 
  • , Edward W. OdellAffiliated withHead and Neck / Oral Pathology, Guy’s Hospital, King’s College London
  • , Carina PhillipsAffiliated withWellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, The Royal College of Surgeons of England

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Abstract

Syphilis was the first sexually transmitted disease to be diagnosed in childhood. Most developed countries controlled syphilis effectively after the 1950s and congenital syphilis became rare. Since the late 1990s there has been a resurgence of syphilis in developed and developing countries and the WHO estimates that at least half a million infants die of congenital syphilis every year. The earliest reference to the dental manifestations of congenital syphilis was by Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, Assistant Surgeon at The London Hospital in 1861. Three main dental defects are described in congenital syphilis; Hutchinson’s incisors, Moon’s molars or bud molars, and Fournier’s molars or mulberry molars. Although many physicians, dentists, and pathologists in developed countries will be aware of the dental features of syphilis, most will never have seen a case or made the diagnosis. The purpose of this article is to review some of the history of congenital syphilis, remind healthcare professionals of the features, and bring to their attention that the changes are still prevalent and that milder cases can be mistaken for other causes of hypoplasia.

Keywords

Congenital syphilis Hutchinson’s incisors Mulberry molars Moon’s molars