Sometimes, babies already have some of their teeth when they're born. These teeth, known as natal or fetal teeth, are seen in one out of every 2,000 to 3,000 births, explains the National Institutes of Health. Since these teeth appear too early, they often have weak roots, which means they can get damaged easily.
Caring for Natal Teeth
Often, these teeth are removed shortly after a baby is born. They're extracted to eliminate the risk of a baby breathing in a dislodged tooth. If your child's doctors think the teeth should remain in place, you'll need to care for the teeth very carefully to avoid damaging them. Clean the teeth by wiping them gently with a damp cloth. During these cleanings, check your child's gums and tongue to make sure the natal teeth aren't causing any injuries.
Once more baby teeth start to erupt, you can start cleaning them with a baby toothbrush and Colgate® My First® Fluoride-Free Toothpaste. A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used once your child turns 2 years old.
Damage to Natal Teeth
Natal teeth are often wobbly due to their weak roots. They're held to the gums with soft tissue, so they may become dislodged during feedings or cleanings. These dislodged teeth should not be replanted, explains the American Association of Endodontists. Replanting a knocked-out baby tooth can damage the developing adult tooth underneath, so don't try to put it back in place. If your child's gums are bleeding, apply pressure to stop the bleeding and try to comfort him or her, then visit the dentist.
Effects on Adult Teeth
Fetal teeth aren't extra teeth; they're just baby teeth that have erupted earlier than normal. If children's teeth are knocked out when they're babies, they'll be without those teeth during their childhood. Since these teeth usually develop on the front of the lower jaw, this gap will be visible when they smile and it may pose eating problems. The lost fetal teeth can lead to problems with the permanent teeth, as well.
Baby teeth act as placeholders for the permanent teeth that will eventually replace them. If your child's fetal teeth are knocked out prematurely, the other baby teeth may grow into the area and crowd the vacant spot. When it's time for the adult teeth to erupt, there may not be adequate room. This can lead to overcrowding of the adult teeth, explains the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Protecting Adult Teeth
If your child's fetal teeth fall out, the dentist can offer treatments to help protect the adult teeth that will eventually grow into their spots. A metal appliance known as a space maintainer can be used to reserve the vacant space. Space maintainers are cemented onto the teeth adjacent to the gap, so this treatment option will need to wait until a few more of your child's baby teeth have erupted.
If your child's permanent teeth are crowded or crooked when they appear, an orthodontist can help you address the problem early. Orthodontic intervention can begin quite young –at age six or seven – and problems may be easier to fix when the jaw is still growing.
Natal or fetal teeth often have weak roots, so don't be surprised if these teeth fall out or get knocked out. While this can lead to problems with the adult teeth, your child's dentist can help you avoid any future issues.