When a Kansas woman gave birth to her baby two months ago, it wasn't the baby's sex that surprised her but the announcement that the newborn girl already had teeth. Although it may seem to defy the natural order of things, natal teeth (also called fetal teeth) are actually not that rare. Here's more information about this condition and tips on handling this situation.
About Natal Teeth
In general, babies don't get their first tooth until they are 5 or 6 months old. About every 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 births, however, a child is born with teeth. Typically, these teeth are central incisors, though they may form anywhere in the mouth. It's unknown what causes some babies to form teeth so early, but the occurrence is not usually associated with any disease. However, Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, Hallermann-Streiff syndrome, Pierre Robin syndrome, and Sotos syndrome are four diseases where a child may develop natal or neonatal teeth in conjunction with other symptoms.
Although natal teeth are not harmful, they can irritate the baby's tongue and make breast feeding more challenging. Additionally, most natal teeth do not have roots and are only anchored in place by gum tissue. This increases the risk that the teeth may present a choking hazard when they loosen over time and eventually break off. Generally, though, if the doctors find the teeth are not properly anchored by roots, they will remove the teeth in the hospital.
Caring for Natal Teeth
The American Dental Association already recommends that parents begin brushing their children's teeth when they first come in, so parents of children with natal teeth will simply have to start earlier than expected. However, a toothbrush and toothpaste may be too harsh for baby's mouth, so it's best to simply clean the teeth and gums at least once a day using a damp, soft cloth.
When the baby gets older, maybe around 5 to 6 months when teeth are normally supposed to erupt, you may want to start using a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste to clean the teeth. Studies indicate that using fluoride toothpaste at a young age can prevent tooth decay and cavities and reduce the risk kids will have dental problems as adults. Only a tiny dab is sufficient. You don't want your child swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste or they may develop a condition called fluorosis, where the teeth develop white spots or streaks.
Lastly, take your baby in for regular checkups and dental x-rays. If it appears the teeth are no longer rooted in place or the child's regular teeth are growing in underneath the natal teeth, then the natal teeth should be removed to prevent other problems.
For more information about natal teeth, contact a pediatric dentist in your area.