New parents can expect their little one was sprouting their first tooth at 4 to 7 months old. For some infants, teething can even start as early as 3 months. But did you know that in a few rare cases newborns come out of the womb already with teeth?
Earlier this month, there was news of a baby born with a row of seven teeth on his lower jaw. The parents of baby Prayan Sharma first discovered their son’s unexpected pearly whites when the mom breastfed him for the first time. “We were completely surprised. We never knew a baby could be born with one tooth never mind seven teeth,” dad Harish told The Sun.
Harish and his wife Nikita then consulted a pediatric dentist, and the newborn’s teeth surprised doctors. “This is a first of its kind. It’s rare that babies are born with one tooth but never seven teeth. The teeth had to be removed to avoid any risk to the baby swallowing or choking on them,” said Dr. Meet Ramatri, a pediatric dentist at Child Dental Care in India.
Natal teeth are teeth present in the oral cavity during birth, Dr. Carina De los Reyes, former president of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society Inc. (PPDSI), told Smart Parenting. It's different from neonatal teeth that erupt within the first month of birth. She added, “but both are treated the same way.”
According to Stanford Children’s Health of the Stanford University School of Medicine, natal teeth occur in around one out of 2,000 newborns. They most often develop on the lower gum as seen in baby Prayan.
Natal teeth are usually taken out when they may cause feeding problems and pose possible risks. As moms may have already guessed, it would be uncomfortable and even painful for a breastfeeding mother to nurse a child with teeth. The teeth may also cause irritation and injury to the infant's tongue when breastfeeding, according to MedlinePlus, the patient resource site of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
There’s also the risk of the infant inhaling or choking on the teeth. Natal teeth are not as securely held on the gums compared to baby teeth that erupt later on. “They have little root structure. They are attached to the end of the gum by soft tissue and are often wobbly,” said the NIH. If this is the case, the tooth can be easily extracted using topical anesthesia, said Dr. De los Reyes.
Whether the tooth should be extracted or not is a decision that’s made by consulting pediatricians and dentists. “If the tooth is firmly in place, the tooth may be left alone or its incisal edges polished off to remove breast irritation during feeding,” said Dr. De los Reyes.
Will a baby tooth erupt in the place of an extracted natal tooth? It depends. “Natal teeth are either extra teeth or baby teeth that erupt earlier than their usual, which is around 6 months old,” said Dr. De los Reyes. Hence, sometimes it takes just a few months for a “real” baby or milk tooth to come out in its place. Other times the child has to wait for his permanent teeth, which emerge at around age 5 to 7 years old.
For natal teeth that's not extracted, dental care is not that different to how a parent would look after milk teeth in babies. “You’ll want to keep him clean by wiping his gums and teeth with a damp cloth daily,” said pediatrician Dr. Anita Chandra-Puri in a column for The Bump. “Keep an eye on the condition and examine his gums and tongue to see if he’s getting any cuts.” A trip to the dentist would be necessary if the tooth becomes wobble or the baby gets injured by his tooth, adds Dr. Chandra-Puri.
With regular consultations with a pediatric dentist, you don't need to worry about early teeth in newborns are usually nothing too big to worry about. “If you’re worried that your toothy newborn will have a problem with dental development in the future, he should be fine. They’re just an extra round of teeth; your baby will still get his childhood and adult teeth,” reassured Dr. Chandra-Puri.