Seeing your child's baby teeth be replaced with permanent teeth can be an exciting time. The process begins when children are 5 or 6 years old. The front teeth come in first, and soon after, the first molars follow. These teeth are sometimes called the "6-year molars," and kids have two on the bottom and two on top.
Sometimes, these new molars have an abnormal shape, which can be alarming for parents. Mulberry molars are one type of abnormality that can occur, resulting in teeth that have many small bumps, like mulberry fruits, explains the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.
Cause of Mulberry Teeth
These unusually shaped molars are associated with congenital syphilis, which occurs when pregnant women transmit the disease to their babies, either through the placenta or during birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that there was a sharp increase between 2012 and 2014 in the number of babies born with congenital syphilis in the U.S.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterial infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since most newborns with congenital syphilis don't have any symptoms, the disease may remain undetected at first. Later, parents may notice symptoms like tooth deformities.
A paper published in Head and Neck Pathology reports that congenital syphilis can damage a child's developing tooth buds, resulting in mulberry molars or another condition called Hutchinson teeth. Mulberry molars can also be associated with other conditions that cause severe enamel hypoplasia, or thin enamel. However, these cases aren't usually as pronounced as those connected to congenital syphilis.
Mulberry teeth are uncommon, and the paper in Head and Neck Pathology explains that most dentists in developed countries will have never seen a case before. However, they should be aware of the condition and be able to identify it based on the characteristic berry appearance of the affected teeth.
Syphilis is diagnosed based on a blood test, explains the Mayo Clinic. People with syphilis have antibodies to the bacteria in their blood. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, as the condition can cause serious harm to the baby if passed on.
A study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry reports that mulberry molars are more likely to develop cavities, so restorations such as crowns can be installed to improve aesthetic appearance and strengthen the teeth.
For children with mulberry teeth, treatment for syphilis is also incredibly important. This treatment can be performed by a pediatrician. As the Mayo Clinic explains, syphilis may be cured with penicillin. For kids who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics can be prescribed.
Mulberry molars are one of many dental abnormalities that can affect children. If any of your children's teeth appear abnormal, see a dentist immediately to determine the cause.