A baby’s first tooth is an exciting milestone for any new parent. At Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Mill Creek, and Everett, Washington, our pediatric dentists recommend bringing your baby in for a dental exam within their first year of life. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry strongly urges parents to bring their little one in the moment their first tooth arrives.
While most babies get their first tooth around six months of age, milk teeth can develop much sooner than you might think. Believe it or not, some babies are actually born with teeth!
Can babies be born with teeth?
Yes! Though rare, some babies are born with teeth. Teeth that are present at birth are called natal teeth. Around 2,000-3,000 babies have natal teeth at birth. While similar in appearance to baby teeth, natal teeth are typically much smaller, softer, yellower, and shaped like cones.
Natal teeth can develop anywhere in the mouth, but they’re most likely to form in the lower front incisors.
Natal Teeth Complications
Since natal teeth aren’t usually fully developed like primary teeth, they can lead to a number of complications, such as:
Newborns with natal teeth often have difficulty latching while breastfeeding. Latching is essential for an infant to get the nutrients they need from their mother’s milk. Natal teeth can also make breastfeeding painful for mothers, as they aren’t as well-formed or secure as primary teeth.
A sublingual laceration, or tongue laceration, is an injury to the tongue that can feel uncomfortable for an infant. Sublingual lacerations from natal teeth can also further interfere with breastfeeding.
If your baby has a supernumerary natal tooth, or an extra tooth, it can lead to a crowded mouth or displaced teeth.
A dental aspiration is a rare complication that happens if your infant ingests a natal tooth. Natal teeth are more likely to loosen than baby or permanent teeth, so they’re far easier to swallow.
Causes of Natal Teeth
There’s no single cause of natal teeth, but many factors can increase your baby’s chances of developing one. Your baby is more likely to have natal teeth at birth if they also have:
- A family history of natal teeth
- Malnutrition during gestation
- Fever or infection during gestation
- Sotos syndrome: Causes extreme growth during the early years
- Hallermann-Streiff syndrome: Causes physical abnormalities of the skull, skin, and hair
- Jadassohn-Lewandowsky syndrome: Affects the nails, skin, and teeth
- Cleft palate or lip
Babies born with a cleft lip or palate are far more likely to have natal teeth than those born without one.
Treatments for Natal Teeth
How your kids’ dentist at Stellar Kids Dentistry treats your baby’s natal teeth depends on their severity and location. Common treatments for natal teeth include:
A pediatric dentist typically only performs a tooth extraction if your baby has supernumerary natal teeth. However, the dentist may also recommend an extraction if your baby’s tooth is mobile or loose to prevent aspiration.
Smoothing, or shaving, down a natal tooth is necessary when the tooth is impacting your baby’s ability to feed. If the tooth is sharp, it can cause pain for you and your baby during breastfeeding. Shaving down a natal tooth also helps prevent lacerations.
Watch and Wait
Some natal teeth are actually primary teeth. If this is the case, keeping the tooth in place has many potential benefits for your child’s dental health.
What are neonatal teeth?
While natal teeth are present at birth, neonatal teeth can develop shortly after. Most neonatal teeth erupt within a newborn’s first month of life. While less common than their natal counterparts, neonatal teeth are not always cause for concern. They can develop normally, though they do carry many of the same risks and complications as natal teeth.