It happens to one in every 2,000 infants – having natal teeth. Natal teeth are teeth that are already present when an infant is born. Natal teeth are not the same as the neonatal teeth which erupt in the infant’s mouth during the first month of life.
Natal teeth are actually the primary (baby) teeth of the infant but they came out very early. They generally develop on the lower gum, where the central incisor teeth will appear. They have very little root formation and are attached to the end of the gum by soft tissue causing the teeth to be wobbly. And because natal teeth are not well-formed, they may cause irritation and injury to the infant’s tongue when nursing. In the same token, natal teeth may cause pain to the nursing mother.
Common Causes of Natal Teeth
In most cases, natal teeth are just a rarity and not related to a medical condition. However, there are cases where natal teeth may be associated with:
Ellis-van Creveld syndrome
Pierre Robin syndrome
Risks for the Child
Because of the wobbly nature of the natal teeth’s structure or formation, the child becomes at a potential risk of inhaling the tooth into his airways and lungs if the tooth becomes dislodged while breastfeeding.
Diagnosis of Natal Teeth
A complete history and physical examination of the infant is necessary to check for natal teeth. The teeth can be visually seen but X-rays will give a more definitive finding and evaluation.
Caring for Natal Teeth
In many instances, natal teeth are removed shortly after birth while the infant is still in the hospital. Teeth that are loose should be removed right away to reduce the risk of inhaling a dislodged tooth into his airways. This should be consulted with the pediatrician or a pediatric dentist. Early removal of the natal teeth may lead to overcrowding of the permanent teeth when they erupt.
If the natal teeth are not removed, you should keep them clean by gently wiping the gums and teeth with a clean, damp cloth. Make sure you frequently check the infant’s gums and tongue to see if the teeth are causing any injury.
If the infant develops a sore tongue or mouth or other symptoms, you should bring your baby to the pediatric dentist for further evaluation.