Michael Jordan: A Dentist’s Perspective


I miss sports. In this rare time without basketball, baseball or tennis, I’m thankful for a recently aired documentary on EPSN that has filled my sports void.

The Last Dance documentary profiles the epic basketball career of Michael Jordan, and the 10-episode series follows his time at the Chicago Bulls throughout the 90s. I have watched all 10 episodes, and I must say, it was entertaining and a highlight for me each week.

What does this have to do with dentistry?

For today’s column, I want to profile Michael Jordan’s teeth.

He is a public figure that works to keep his personal life private, but as all dentists know, teeth talk, and here’s what I want you to know about Air Jordan’s smile:

Michael Jordan is missing a tooth.

What? How, you ask? You don’t see a gap in that confident smile after he drains a fadeaway jumper!

After reviewing Jordan’s smile, he is missing his permanent right lateral incisor. In dentistry, we refer to this tooth as #7. Using your front two teeth as a starting point, move one over to your right—that’s your right lateral incisor, or tooth #7.

Jordan likely had this baby tooth, but when he lost this baby teeth, the permanent tooth never showed up.

You’d be surprised to know this is somewhat common. We see patients with this same issue. Sometimes where permanent teeth are supposed to be, there are none to be found. Dentists take panoramic radiographs (x-rays), and this type of radiograph is a great way to see what teeth are (or aren’t) coming when kids reach a certain age. By reviewing a radiograph like this, you can best plan with your dentist and other dental specialists for how to handle a gap caused by a missing tooth.

Like many things in dentistry, there are a lot of options to fix a gap due to a missing tooth.

What did Jordan (or Jordan’s parents) choose?

By reviewing the shape of Jordan’s front teeth, it appears his canine was used to fill the space left by the missing lateral incisor. This likely happened naturally because teeth shift over time. Some composite bonding could have been done to make the naturally pointy canine look more like a rectangular lateral incisor.

Were there other options Jordan could have considered? Absolutely. Instead of naturally shifting the teeth over, he could have used orthodontics to focus on straightening his teeth and bite while leaving the space open for options to replace the missing tooth, such as an implant or bridge.

In many situations, a dental implant can be your best long-term replacement option for a missing tooth. First, a titanium post is placed into the jaw in the position of the missing tooth. Once the post has integrated, a crown is attached to the post, leaving the patient with an almost natural feeling and looking tooth.

A bridge replaces a missing tooth with an artificial tooth. A fake tooth is held in place by two teeth on either side of the gap. It literally “bridges” the gap where a tooth is missing. This is referred to as a “fixed” option in dentistry because the bridge stays in your mouth.

Removable options are also available to fill a missing space. A partial denture is a removable option that could be used to fill open space with artificial options.

Next time you see an image of Michael Jordan, take a closer look at his teeth and see what you notice.

Thank you Jumpman #23 for reminding everyone, whether you are the greatest basketball player of all time or not, you need a dentist and a plan.

Mark Scallon, DDS