So your baby’s born with teeth. What does this mean, and does it pose any risks to your child’s oral or general health?
Most babies are born without teeth, so it it is perfectly understandable if you are taken aback by the unexpected sight of tiny teeth in your newborn’s mouth. These tiny teeth are called natal teeth, and they’re completely normal, although very rare.
If your baby is born with natal teeth, it isn’t necessarily a problem. Still, if your baby has natal teeth, it still makes good sense to take him to be seen by a pediatric dentist, who can determine whether there are any risks you should be aware of.
If you would like to learn more about natal teeth, what causes them, what the potential risks are, and what can be done to prevent any issues, then keep on reading.
Natal teeth are more commonly known as baby teeth. Natal teeth are not to be mistaken for neonatal teeth, which are teeth that erupt in the child’s mouth in their first month of life.
Natal teeth are teeth that are already present at birth. And to answer one of the first questions you may have about them, no, they are not common at all. In fact, only about one in 2,000 babies are born with teeth.
In most cases, natal teeth are not fully developed and tend to be discoloured and have a weak and shallow root.
So how are natal teeth diagnosed? The answer is, usually by a pediatric dentist, who will use a combination of physical examination and x ray imaging and of your infant’s mouth.
Teeth that aren’t present at birth but show up much earlier than expected are called neonatal teeth. These teeth typically make an appearance just a few months after birth.
In cases of neonatal teeth, symptoms of teething begin way earlier than expected, usually when the baby is just three months old. Because neonatal teeth appear so quickly after birth, you might overlook your child’s symptoms of teething, like drooling, fussinesss, and biting his or her fingers, simply because you do not expect them yet.
What causes natal and neonatal teeth
The cause of natal teeth is unknown, one of nature’s many remaining mysteries.
In some cases, natal and neonatal teeth can be early signs of underlying medical issues or recognized syndromes. These include include: Ellis-van Creveld, pachyonychia congenital, Hallerman-Streiff, Pallister–Hall, short rib-polydactyly type II, Wiedeman-Rautenstrauch, Pfeiffer, cleft lips and palates, ectodermal dysplasia and cranoiofacial dysplasia.
Natal teeth seem to be slightly more common in premature infants. However, they can also occur in healthy term newborns without any underlying medical conditions.
Some sources have suggested that natal teeth may be a hereditary feature, as about 15 percent of babies born with teeth have close family members that were also born with teeth.
When to see your pediatric dentist
Since both natal and neonatal teeth are so rare, the chances of your baby having either are low.
If your baby is either born with teeth or start teething unexpectedly early, it is always a good idea to take them to a paediatric dentist for assessment.
Natal and neonatal teeth that aren’t loose or causing any other issues are usually left alone. But if your baby is born with loose teeth that have no roots or extremely shallow roots, it may be safest to have them removed to eliminate any risk of your child accidentally inhaling and swallowing them.
Here are the main concerns that may cause your baby’s healthcare provider or pediatric dentist to recommend having their natal teeth removed:
- Your baby’s teeth are causing feeding difficulties
- Your baby’s teeth are hurting you while breastfeeding due to the sharp edges
- There is a risk of injury to your baby’s tongue
- There is a possible risk of your child inhaling the tooth into his or her airway and lungs if the tooth breaks free
The most serious of these potential issues is, of course, if your infant inhales a tooth. Although very small, your baby’s chances of inhaling a tooth should be taken very seriously. Because natal teeth are more likely to loosen than normal baby teeth, they’re far easier to swallow.
If your infant ingests a natal tooth, the resulting complication is called a dental aspiration. If this happens, you should take your infant to the nearest hospital for an immediate physical examination and x rays to identify the tooth, which may have lodged itself in the infant’s airways. Once the tooth has been identified, a bronchoscopy will have to be performed in order to remove it.
It is not unusual for your infant’s dentist to suggest removing natal teeth, simply to eliminate any risk of dental aspiration, problems breastfeeding, or damage to your baby’s tongue.
Frequently asked questions about natal and neonatal teeth
What does it mean when a baby is born with teeth?
For the most part, natal teeth don’t cause any problems, but in some cases the premature baby teeth may pose certain risks to your baby’s wellbeing. For example, if your baby’s teeth have sharp or rough edges, they may damage the baby’s tongue or cause feeding problems.
All in all, if your baby is born with natal teeth, it is as good idea to take him or her to a paediatric dentist, who will be able to assess whether there are any noteworthy risks
Is it rare for babies to be born with teeth?
Only one out of approximately 2,000 infants are born with natal teeth.
Is natal teeth lucky?
From a practical standpoint, natal teeth may pose some risks to your baby’s health. For example, your baby may accidentally inhale one of his or her natal teeth, which could be quite dangerous if the tooth gets lodged in his or her airways.
Can a baby be born with a full set of teeth?
Final thought on babies born with teeth
The vast majority of babies are born toothless – but then there is that one in roughly 2,000 babies that is born with natal teeth.
Natal teeth are usually not problematic, but it is still important to take your infant to be seen by a paediatric dentist. To be on the safe side, it may be a good idea to either get your infant’s natal teeth removed or smoothed down.