Not everyone has the same skull shape, and normal variations exist among individuals. The skull is not perfectly round or smooth, so it is normal to feel slight bumps and ridges.
However, a dent in the head, especially if it is new, requires a trip to the doctor to determine the cause.
In this article, we examine the possible causes and symptoms of a dent in the head. We also explain when a person should see a doctor and the possible treatment options.
A dent in the head may have a variety of causes. It could result from an injury, be genetic, or indicate a medical condition.
An injury to the brain, known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), can sometimes accompany a skull fracture, but that is not always the case. In the United States, there are about 1.7 million cases of TBI each year.
There are four major types of skull fracture, including:
- open fracture
- closed fracture
- depressed fracture
- basal fracture
Of the four types, a depressed fracture is the most likely to look like a dent in the head. The dent occurs due to the displacement of the bone toward the brain.
In addition to displaced bone, the symptoms of a skull fracture may include:
- impaired vision
- balance problems
Certain types of brain surgery may leave a small dent in the skull.
For example, a craniectomy involves removing a piece of the skull bone. This removal might be necessary to reduce pressure on the brain from conditions that cause swelling.
Surgeons often restore the removed portion of the skull once the swelling has gone down, which usually resolves the dent.
Additional side effects following brain surgery vary depending on the reason for the operation.
Congenital skull depression
A congenital skull depression is a dent in the head that is present from birth.
In Western countries, the condition is uncommon, with experts estimating that it occurs in 1 in 10,000 newborn babies.
A congenital skull depression is usually due to trauma to the head during delivery. For example, the use of forceps or a suction device to help deliver the baby may result in trauma.
The main sign of a congenital skull dent is the depression in the bone. However, the trauma may also cause a brain injury in some babies.
When a brain injury occurs, symptoms may include:
- trouble breathing
- feeding difficulties
Although uncommon, different types of bone tumor may cause bone deformity and a dent in the head.
According to research in the journal Surgical Neurology International, tumors in the skull represent about 1–4% of all bone tumors.
Even benign tumors, such as fibrous dysplasia and ossifying fibroma, may cause an indentation of the skull.
Symptoms of a skull tumor may include:
- bone pain
- bone deformity
- a painless mass
Gorham’s disease is a condition that involves bone loss and abnormal blood vessel development. The loss of bone can lead to an indentation in the skull.
According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, Gorham’s disease is very rare.
Although it can occur at any age, it is most common in young adults and children.
Gorham’s disease can affect any of the bones in the body. Typically, though, the condition involves the skull, ribs, or pelvis.
Gorham’s disease causes symptoms in the affected area, including:
- bone pain
- decreased range of motion
- generalized weakness
Vitamin A toxicity
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that is necessary for a healthy immune system. It is also vital for organs, such as the lungs and heart, to function normally. Too much vitamin A can have adverse effects.
Vitamin A toxicity occurs when there is too much vitamin A in the body. It is rarely due to a person eating too many foods high in vitamin A. Instead, it typically occurs as a result of taking an excessively high dosage of vitamin A supplements.
Vitamin A toxicity can cause softening of the bones, including the skull, which can lead to an indentation.
Additional symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include:
- a headache
A dent in the head may be alarming, and it can occur for different reasons, some of which are serious. If a person develops a new dent in their head, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
If an indentation develops after trauma to the head, immediate evaluation is necessary. Some head injuries, including skull fractures, can be life threatening.
In some instances, a doctor may make a diagnosis after performing a physical exam and medical history review. They may also use tests, such as a bone scan, X-ray, and CT scan, to help them make a diagnosis and determine the cause.
Treatment for a dent in the head depends on the cause.
In some cases, the condition does not require treatment. For example, if vitamin A toxicity causes a dent in the head, the person will just need to stop taking an excessive number of vitamin A supplements.
Similarly, a congenital skull depression due to a forceps injury during childbirth may not require treatment. According to research in the journal BMJ Case Reports, most congenital skull depressions from a birth injury spontaneously resolve in about 4 months.
In other cases, a dent in the head requires treatment.
For example, a person with a depressed skull fracture will need surgery. Surgery involves removing bone fragments around the brain to decrease the risk of brain damage. The individual will also receive medication, such as antibiotics and pain relievers.
Some people will require treatment to target the underlying condition responsible for a dent in the head. For example, treatment for Gorham’s disease may include radiation therapy and vitamin D supplements. In some circumstances, a doctor might also recommend bone grafting surgery.
Skull shape varies naturally from person to person. However, a dent in the head may sometimes develop. This dent can have a variety of causes, including trauma, birth injuries, and some types of bone tumor.
If a person is concerned about a dent in their head, they should see a doctor. It is especially important to seek medical attention if additional symptoms are present, such as nausea, confusion, or dizziness.
Some dents in the head do not require treatment. In other instances, surgery may help treat the indentation.