What are Natal Teeth?
Natal teeth, also known as prenatal teeth, are teeth present in a baby's mouth at birth. Natal teeth are very rare, occurring in only about 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 newborns. These teeth usually appear on the lower front gums, where the central incisors (the middle two front teeth) would typically erupt later.
What Causes Natal Teeth?
The exact cause of natal teeth is unclear. Some factors that may be involved:
- Genetic factors: Inherited genes might play a role.
- Hyperactivity of tooth-forming cells: These cells start working too early in the womb.
- Certain syndromes: Conditions like trisomy 13 and cleidocranial dysplasia are sometimes associated with natal teeth.
Are Natal Teeth the Same as Primary Teeth?
Natal teeth can be supernumerary (extra teeth), but they can also be what’s typically “baby teeth.”
Baby teeth typically erupt around 6 months of age, starting with the lower central incisors. Natal teeth, on the other hand, are present at birth.
Complications Associated with Natal Teeth
While not always associated with problems, natal teeth can sometimes cause issues like:
- Injury to the tongue or mother's breast during breastfeeding
- Problems with speech development
- Difficulty with oral hygiene, leading to increased risk of cavities
- Loose teeth that could pose a choking hazard
Do Natal Teeth Need to Be Removed?
Whether to remove natal teeth depends on various factors, including:
- Looseness of the tooth. Loose teeth pose a choking risk and should be removed
- Discomfort to the baby or mother
- Impact on breastfeeding
- Presence of cysts or other complications
A pediatric dentist can carefully assess the situation and recommend the best course of action. Often, they might monitor the tooth initially and only remove it if necessary.
Managing Natal Teeth
If your baby has natal teeth, here are some tips for managing them:
- Maintain good oral hygiene: Gently clean the teeth and gums with a soft brush and water.
- Monitor for looseness: Keep an eye on the tooth and consult your dentist if it becomes loose.
- Protect the tongue and breast: Use a finger guard or shield during breastfeeding to prevent injury.
- Regular dental checkups: Schedule regular visits with your pediatric dentist to monitor the tooth and address any concerns.
Remember, natal teeth are rare and not always a cause for worry. With proper monitoring and management, baby can still thrive if they are born with teeth.