Teething is a normal part of the baby’s development. As a parent, we wait in anticipation for our child’s first tooth to erupt.
But in some sporadic cases, you may see your baby’s primary teeth at the time of their birth.
These teeth are called natal teeth and are present in the baby’s mouth when they are born.
It is a rare condition, seen in only 1 out of every 2000 to 3000 births. It can be a shock to see your newborn baby with teeth.
But you should not worry about this condition unless it injures the baby’s tongue, or interferes with the feeding or is a choking hazard.
Your dentist can advise you on how to manage natal teeth, but you should also be aware of what natal teeth are and how to manage it.
What are natal teeth?
Natal teeth are teeth that are present above the gum line or have already erupted at birth.
These teeth are usually a baby’s deciduous teeth that sprouted prematurely, or it could be a supernumerary tooth. (1)
Natal teeth can be confused with neonatal teeth, but neonatal teeth are teeth that emerge through the gingival during the first month of life.
Signs and symptoms
Natal teeth are commonly seen in the lower jaw where the central incisors are seen. These teeth are not correctly formed and have little root structure. (2)
These teeth are attached to the end of the gum by soft tissue. It is often shaky and mobile.
Natal teeth may cause injury and irritation to an infant’s tongue while nursing and may also be uncomfortable for a nursing mother.
The presence of natal teeth is a rare condition and the reasons for natal teeth are unknown.
There are certain conditions which increase the chances of your baby being born with a natal tooth.
The conditions associated with natal teeth are as follows –
- Babies with cleft lip or palate
- Babies born with irregularities in dentin
- Syndromes like Sotos, Hollerman-Streiff, Pierre-Robin, Ellis-van Creveld
- Malnutrition during pregnancy
There is not much known about natal teeth, but different types of natal teeth are identified, which can determine the risk for complications for your baby.
There are four types of natal teeth –
- Fully developed, though loose, crowns affixed to a few root structures
- Loose teeth that don’t have any roots
- Small teeth just emerging from the gums
- Evidence of teeth about to cut through the gums
Why should natal teeth be treated?
Natal tooth does not require any intervention unless it causes any injury or unease to the baby or the mother.
Natal teeth are diagnosed after a careful physical examination and taking x-rays, after which the pediatric dentist evaluates and devises an appropriate treatment plan for your baby. (3)
A natal tooth needs to be treated in the following situations –
- Choking from accidental swallowing of the loose tooth (4)
- Feeding problems
- Tongue injuries
- Injuries to the mother during breastfeeding
Management of natal teeth
No intervention is required for the natal teeth if it doesn’t cause any injuries or discomfort to the baby or mother.
Natal teeth should be extracted if it’s mobile and irritating the baby’s tongue. Extraction of the natal tooth is also indicated when the tooth has no roots.
In some cases, the natal teeth are removed right after the baby is born. The natal teeth act as a place holder for the permanent teeth to erupt according to their schedule. (5)
In case of extraction, the space created should be preserved for the adult tooth which replaces the baby tooth. The dentist will recommend a space maintainer to reserve this vacant space.
The space maintainers prevent the crowding of permanent teeth by stopping the remaining baby teeth from growing into the extraction space.
If the permanent teeth still erupt crowded or crooked when they erupt. Orthodontic intervention can fix this problem at an early age when the jaw is still growing.
In case the natal tooth sheds itself, and the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply pressure on the gums and visit the dentist.
When natal teeth are maintained inside the mouth, you should keep it clean with wet gauze and your finger to prevent any infections.
Take away message
Being born with teeth may be a rare occurrence, but it is still possible. You should consult with your pediatrician and dentist to decide on an appropriate treatment plan for your baby.
Natal teeth usually don’t require any treatment and can be maintained inside the mouth till the permanent teeth replace it.
It may need surgical removal to prevent hazards and health complications. It is crucial to monitor natal teeth in your baby to avoid any complications.