Gaten Matarazzo, best known for playing the beloved character Dustin Henderson on Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Stranger Things, has become known for his infectious smile that is missing his two front teeth. So why has the actor been without his front chompers since childhood? The reason has to do with a rare genetic disorder he was born with.

Understanding Cleidocranial Dysplasia

Understanding Cleidocranial Dysplasia

Gaten was born with a condition called cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD). This is a genetic disorder that primarily affects the development of bones and teeth. CCD is caused by a mutation in the RUNX2 gene and is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern. Some of the key signs and symptoms include:

Underdeveloped or Absent Collarbones

One of the hallmarks of CCD is collarbones (clavicles) that are partially formed or completely absent. The shoulders can therefore get very close together or even touch in the front of the body. This allows those with CCD to perform tricks like bringing their shoulders together.

Delayed Loss of Deciduous (Baby) Teeth

CCD often causes a delay in shedding primary/deciduous teeth. This means baby teeth can remain in place for longer than normal. This can result in a very crowded mouth because the permanent teeth still try to erupt on the typical schedule.

Failure of Permanent Teeth to Erupt Properly

Frequently, permanent adult teeth become impacted or unable to fully emerge in the mouth due to obstruction or lack of space. The teeth may become stuck under the gums. This is why Gaten has been missing his two upper front teeth since childhood.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Hearing problems are common with CCD, typically a conductive hearing loss from middle ear issues. The smaller bones of the middle ear can be underdeveloped or malformed. Gaten had ear tubes inserted when he was younger to deal with hearing impairment.

Short Stature

In severe cases of CCD, some individuals can have very short stature as adults due to problems with long bone growth. However, most people with CCD are within the average height range, including Gaten Matarazzo.

Dental Issues

Dental anomalies like delayed tooth eruption, crowding, misalignment and high risk for cavities are extremely common. Gaten has required extensive orthodontic work and dental procedures to manage these symptoms.

So in summary, cleidocranial dysplasia is a complex genetic condition affecting bone and dental development in many areas of the body. The most visible signs are clavicle abnormalities, retention of baby teeth and lack of permanent tooth eruption.

Gaten’s Diagnosis and Treatment Journey

Gaten Matarazzo was diagnosed with CCD at a young age after his parents noticed some of the classic features of the disorder emerging:

  • Extremely flexible collarbone that allowed him to bring his shoulders together
  • An underbite caused by delayed loss of primary teeth
  • X-rays that showed adult teeth trapped under the gums
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The family sought evaluations from geneticists and dental specialists. Genetic testing confirmed the diagnosis of CCD by identifying a pathogenic variant in Gaten’s RUNX2 gene.

Living with CCD requires lifelong dental care and orthodontic treatment. Here are some of the key procedures Gaten has undergone so far:

  • Tooth extraction surgery to remove baby teeth or painful primary teeth obstructing the path of eruption
  • Dental implant placement for a permanent tooth that was congenitally missing
  • Exposure surgery to pull permanent teeth down through the gums
  • Spacers and expanders to create room in his crowded mouth
  • Ongoing orthodontics using braces and alignment techniques

Despite significant dental work, Gaten is still missing his two permanent maxillary central incisors. These upper front teeth likely became fused or impacted and could not fully erupt. Future dental implants are a possibility, but Gaten has embraced his natural smile for now.

Effects of CCD on Daily Life

Effects of CCD on Daily Life

CCD affects individuals differently depending on the variations in symptoms and severity. For Gaten Matarazzo, the impacts have included:

  • Self-confidence issues – The condition resulted in bullying when he was young due to looking different from other kids. He eventually learned to embrace his uniqueness.
  • Social limitations – Those with CCD may avoid smiling or feel embarrassed about their teeth. Gaten has become an inspirational role model for self-acceptance.
  • Dental care routines – Practicing excellent oral hygiene and having frequent dental visits is a must to prevent tooth decay or loss of additional teeth over time.
  • Hearing aids – Conductive hearing loss is common with CCD due to the malformed bones. Gaten had ear tubes as a child but does not require hearing aids currently.
  • Normal physical development – Despite dental and skeletal symptoms, overall growth is usually unaffected. Gaten reached average adult height and has no major mobility issues.
  • Variable expressivity – There is a broad spectrum of possible effects with CCD. Gaten’s case is considered moderate compared to more severe cases.

Living with cleidocranial dysplasia requires perseverance and a positive attitude. Gaten Matarazzo serves as an inspiring example for making the most of life’s challenges.

How CCD Impacted Gaten’s Career

Gaten’s unique tooth situation and smile due to his CCD diagnosis have shaped his path to stardom in some surprising ways:

Led to His Discovery as an Actor

Gaten first caught the eye of a talent agent at a young actors’ showcase, where his genuine smile stood out. This led to early gigs and ultimately his Broadway debut.

Helped Him Land Quirky Character Roles

Having a distinctive, memorable look has been an asset when auditioning for offbeat parts. Gaten won roles on shows like The Blacklist before his big breakout with Stranger Things.

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Created an Iconic Character

The show creators chose to feature Gaten’s natural smile as part of Dustin Henderson’s look. Dustin’s endearing grins and toothy expressions are now signature traits.

Provides a Platform for Advocacy

Gaten now uses his fame to advocate for genetic disorders and conditions causing facial differences. He frequently speaks out to support self-love and acceptance.

Makes Him Relatable

His sincerity and openness about his condition fosters a unique connection with fans who also feel “different.” He inspires people to embrace their perceived flaws.

So in many ways, Gaten Matarazzo’s distinct smile and dental traits related to CCD have shaped his journey to stardom and enabled him to help others. What some may have perceived as flaws were actually the keys to success.

Perspective on His Smile and Teeth Today

Now entering adulthood as a confident young man in his late teens, Gaten Matarazzo has fully embraced what makes him unique. Here’s an inside look at his current philosophies:

  • Comfortable in his skin – After being bullied as a child, Gaten learned over time to love himself and not care what people think.
  • Chooses authenticity – He could get dental implants but feels no need to change his appearance to suit others. Gaten is committed to self-acceptance.
  • Grateful role model – He hopes being in the public eye shows those with differences that they should be proud of who they are. His fans have become like family.
  • Passionate advocate – Bringing awareness to genetic conditions and facial anomalies is extremely meaningful to Gaten. He wants to inspire people to feel less lonely or isolated.
  • Future in acting/music – Gaten plans to continue challenging beauty standards and embracing his uniqueness through his work. He also loves expressing himself through music.
  • Uses humor positively – Facing tough situations with comedy and laughter has helped Gaten stay upbeat. He handles challenges with a smile.

Thanks to inner strength and family support, Gaten Matarazzo has grown into a young man spreading light everywhere he goes. He proves our perceived imperfections can become our greatest gifts if we learn to embrace them.


Gaten Matarazzo’s endearing smile, despite his missing front teeth, has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. The reason this talented young actor lacks his two upper incisors provides a lesson in overcoming adversity with grace.

Born with the rare condition cleidocranial dysplasia, Gaten faced dental complications from early childhood that prevented his permanent front teeth from properly erupting. Although he’s endured extensive procedures, implants remain a possibility in the future.

Far from hiding his condition, Gaten has flourished in the spotlight while proudly sporting his authentic smile. He’s become a role model for self-love and acceptance among those who feel “different.”

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The challenges of CCD have shaped Gaten’s outlook and path to stardom in unexpected ways. His fans are inspired by his humor, openness and confidence to embrace our perceived flaws. Gaten Matarazzo continues to delight audiences by unapologetically being himself – infectious grin and all.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gaten Matarazzo’s missing front teeth

Here are answers to some of the most common questions people have about Gaten’s signature smile:

Why is Gaten Matarazzo missing both of his front teeth?

Gaten was born with a rare genetic disorder called cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD) which caused complications with his dental development. As a result, his permanent upper front adult teeth became trapped under the gums and were unable to properly erupt.

Has Gaten ever worn fake teeth for acting roles?

No, Gaten has never worn prosthetic teeth for his roles in Stranger Things or other acting jobs. The show creators chose to feature his natural smile missing two front teeth.

Will he ever consider getting dental implants?

Gaten has said he currently has no plans to get implants to replace his missing front teeth. He has fully embraced his unique smile and does not feel the need to change it. However, it’s possible his feelings could change in the future.

Did Gaten require special dental work growing up?

Yes. Due to his CCD, Gaten needed extensive dental care including surgery to remove baby teeth, expose permanent teeth under the gums and create space in his crowded mouth. He’s also had years of orthodontic treatment.

How can Gaten have such a perfect grin without front teeth?

While missing his two front teeth, Gaten has a wonderful smile. He’s had dental alignment work done to straighten his other teeth. More importantly, his inner joy and self-confidence allow his smile to shine through.

In summary, Gaten Matarazzo’s signature grin and missing front teeth are due to a genetic disorder called CCD. He’s opted to embrace this trait rather than hide it. After enduring significant dental procedures over the years, Gaten radiates confidence and inspires others to love themselves.

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