Gaten Matarazzo plays fan favorite Dustin Henderson in the Netflix hit show Stranger Things, and while he’s known for his big personality, he’s also known for his unique teeth.
Ever since the show premiered in 2016, fans have been wondering what’s up with Matarazzo’s teeth — or general lack thereof. He was a child when the show originally came out, but a child old enough to have most of his adult teeth by then. And yet, he flashed a big toothless smile in the first episode, like all his teeth had been knocked out in a hockey game or something at just 12-years-old.
Matarazzo, himself, actually suffers from an extremely rare bone condition. It’s such a jarring condition that Stranger Things writers even purposefully mention it in that first episode so that viewers know something is up.
In the first episode of the show, we hear random characters bully Dustin for his toothless smile, and then his comeback was “I told you a million times, my teeth are coming in. It’s called cleidocranial dysplasia.”
Cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD) is a genetic disorder that affects one in a million people. It slows or stops the growth of bones in the body; for Gaten, it affected his teeth and collarbones.
Gaten Matarazzo had 14 teeth extracted in 2020
The actor was born with a set of baby teeth that did not come in as a child; plus a set of adult teeth waiting to breach. But without the baby teeth falling out, the adult teeth do not necessarily move on their own. This means that Matarazzo has had three tooth extraction surgeries and has to wear dentures and appliances to remove unneeded teeth and manually pull his adult teeth down.
Matarazzo said producers discussed the disorder before the start of filming. “Once I got the part, they said they’re gonna incorporate that and use it in a realistic way. They asked me if it was okay if the kids in the show had bullied me because of it. I said it’s totally cool. It’s realistic,” Gaten revealed in an interview. Then in season three, Matarazzo’s character Dustin refers to his teeth again, saying “[Suzie] doesn’t even care that my real pearls are still coming in. She says kissing is better without teeth.”
Early in 2020, Matarazzo endured what he hopes is his last extraction procedure — a four hour surgery to retrieve his adult teeth. On Instagram, he commented on his procedure, offering some further insight into his own specific tooth issues.
“Those who suffer from cleidocranial dysplasia usually have supernumerary teeth, which are extra teeth that grow in the gums. I’ve had several surgeries to extract these teeth from within my gums and help expose the teeth that should have already grown in considering my age. In this surgery, the team of amazing medical professionals extracted 14 supernumerary teeth and exposed six of my adult teeth.”