Shark Teeth in Children

Have you ever seen permanent tooth coming in behind baby tooth in children? Is this a normal situation? Many parents become panic when this happens and the child is stressed unnecessarily.  We sometimes called this condition as “Shark teeth”. It is simply when the permanent tooth comes in before the baby (milk) tooth is shed.

What is shark teeth?

It is a common situation during two periods in a child’s development. First, when the child turns 6 years old and the permanent lower incisors erupt behind the baby tooth and then the upper back molars appear when the child is around 11 years old. Some kids develop two rows of teeth or seen in pairs at times. These can appear very unsightly. It earns its name from sharks as they have double row of teeth.

Baby teeth

Primary tooth loss first occurs around 5-6 years but in some it can occur as early as 4 years and even at 8 years. Children whose baby tooth erupted early tend to lose them before late teethers do. They usually fall in the order they came in, the centre first (bottom two and then the top two central incisors) followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canine and second molars. Some children usually find it exciting and others may feel nervous about this childhood development. It may be more important to a child compared to learning how to read, hobbies and they will be keen on the progress within their group of friends. This is the ultimate time to introduce proper dental care. Female children usually lose their baby teeth before male children. The permanent dentition will be present when the child is 12 o 13 years old.

How does shark teeth occur?

In the normal course of events, the permanent teeth slowly dissolves the baby tooth root as it erupts under it. When there is little amount of root left, the baby tooth loses its attachment in the tooth socket and falls out. The permanent tooth then grows into the vacated place. However, if there is lack of space in the child’s jaw or otherwise no force to ‘push’ the baby tooth out, the root is retained. Since the adult tooth fail to exert pressure on the primary tooth, the roots take a longer time to soften. The new tooth then find its way to sprout behind the baby tooth by taking the path of least resistance. It fits itself comfortably here since there is adequate room available for it to emerge. You don’t have to worry much here because the new tooth will tend to move forward into the correct position on its own. Some children prefer to wiggle the teeth to fasten the process in the normal routine of eating, talking and touching to see what the new teeth feels like. Some just leave them hanging in there like a thread while the parents hope that the baby tooth will fall out naturally. Remember there maybe more amount of root present than you think. There is no need to ‘force’ a teeth out as it will fall eventually. There are chances for it to break and become infected possessing a more serious problem in situations where the root is only half dissolved. If it is loose, you can use a tissue and rotate the tooth. You will be able to pull it out easily if the root is absent. Loosing a tooth is a painless process but sore gums maybe present with the erupting first molars. Parents may give painkillers to ease the discomfort or any form of topical analgesics.  Your child may complain that it is difficult to eat with a missing tooth. Ensure that your child has a balanced diet and assist her with the brushing and flossing to maintain a healthy set of dentition.

How to treat shark teeth in children?

It’s not really an emergency, but need to be addressed. Take your child to visit a dentist if the double row of teeth lasts longer than 3months. The dentist will evaluate if there is a major problem and decide depending on the situation. He will usually extract the stubborn baby tooth and create more space by removing the adjacent baby teeth. He also has a choice of reducing the width of the baby tooth and making it slimmer, a process called ‘disking’. The new tooth will come into position in a few weeks or months time. Please wait patiently as this is a slow process. Your child may help push the teeth forward with his or her tongue. If you look closely, the permanent teeth will have ridges on its biting edge. These are called ‘mammelons’ and will be worn down during the chewing process and form straight incisal edges. It is present on all our permanent teeth when they erupt. Permanent tooth is less whiter than primary tooth and blends itself with the gum color as time goes by. They may appear big in size but it will be fine as the head will grow proportionately.

What if baby tooth  fail to fall out?

On rare occasions, the baby tooth will not fall if the permanent tooth is absent and there is no force to pust it out. This conditions is called hypodontia ( reduced number of teeth). On the other hand, if an extra tooth (supernumerary ) is present, it will be a  barrier in the normal erupting path.

2 thoughts on “Shark Teeth in Children

  1. Tamouh

    Excellent article for crooked permanent tooth coming behind baby tooth. Thanks for sharing the info, comforting for new parents

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