Although rare, it is not completely unheard of for a baby to be born with teeth. On average, 1 out of every 2000 babies is born with teeth. Teeth that are visible at birth are actually called natal teeth. Since natal teeth normally have minimal root structure, they are often loose and wobbly.
If your child is born with these wobbly teeth, they may pose a choking hazard. If your child’s teeth are strong and secure, you can probably let them be. Your pediatrician will determine whether or not the teeth are a choking hazard. If they are determined to be dangerous, they will most likely be removed in the hospital before you and your baby return home. While natal teeth can be quite a shock, it normally doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your baby.
A few underlying medical conditions that make the presence of natal teeth more likely. These include the following syndromes:
- Sotos—a disorder marked by distinctive facial features, overgrowth in childhood and developmental delays.
- Hallerman-Streiff–a rare condition that is characterized by abnormal skull and facial development as well as eye abnormalities.
- Pierre-Robin–a condition that is marked by difficulty breathing, a smaller than normal jaw, and a tongue that falls back into the throat. Some infants will also have a cleft palate.
- Ellis-Van Creveld–a disorder that typically results in dwarfism. This syndrome may also be characterized by additional fingers, toes or malformed nails.
- Jadasshon-Lewandowski–a defect is marked by excessive keratin levels, leading to thick, curved nails, thickening of the skin on palms, elbows, and feet, excessive sweating, and white plaques in the mouth.
While there is no scientifically determined cause for natal teeth, there is some evidence for genetic correlation. Approximately 15% of babies born with teeth have a parent or sibling who was also born with teeth. Additionally, female infants are more slightly likely to be born with teeth than male infants. While not thoroughly studied yet, there is also some research pointing to malnutrition during pregnancy as a potential risk factor for natal teeth.
Types of Teeth at Birth
As mentioned above, there are several types of teeth your baby may have. It will be up to your pediatrician to determine how to treat natal teeth. Depending on which type your baby has, your doctor will determine whether or not to remove them, There are four primary types:
- Fully developed crowns attached to significant root structure. Your pediatrician may choose to keep these intact.
- Loose teeth that do not have any roots. These are most likely to be removed.
- Small teeth just emerging from the gums. This is what you typically see on babies 4-7 months old who have just begun teething.
- Teeth that are just about ready to break through the gums. Again, this is something that is common in older infants.
In most cases, babies born with natal teeth only have one. Extremely rarely, an infant may present with two or more. How many teeth and where they are located in the mouth will help your doctor determine if any treatment is necessary.
Perhaps your baby wasn’t born with teeth but started teething early. If your child has teeth between 1 and 3 months of age, those are called neonatal teeth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), neonatal teeth are even rarer than natal teeth. Your baby is more likely to be born with teeth than to begin teething early. Since neonatal teeth appear so quickly after birth, they will be a big surprise to parents. None of the hallmark teething symptoms like excessive drooling, fussiness, or chewing fingers, will be evident.
When to Seek Help
If your baby was born with teeth, you probably have nothing to worry about. However, if your infant is experiencing any of the following issues, you’ll need to consult your pediatrician.
- Choking–If your child accidentally swallows a loose tooth, causing choking, seek medical treatment immediately.
- Feeding Problems–If early teeth are interfering with your baby’s ability to eat properly, you’ll need to talk to your doctor. If you child isn’t gaining weight well or isn’t wetting enough diapers, seek help.
- Tongue Injuries–If your child is scratching or piercing her tongue, seek medical help.
- Breastfeeding Injuries–Likewise, if the mother is having issues with scraping, scratching or piercing during nursing sessions, it’s time to consult a medical professional. Having a conversation with a lactation consultant may also be useful.
Beyond The Birth
Although it’s incredibly rare, there is a chance your child may be born with teeth. If this happens, it’s important to discuss your options with your pediatrician. They can determine if surgical removal of natal or neonatal teeth is necessary. Further, a good pediatric dentist can guide you through the process of caring for your child’s teeth for the years to come. Even if your newborn’s teeth are initially considered non-hazardous, it’s important to continue to monitor them for potential complications.