WHAT ARE NEONATAL AND NATAL TEETH?
Natal teeth are teeth which are present in the oral cavity at the time of birth where as neonatal teeth erupt during 30 days of life. Primary tooth normally starts erupting at about 6 months of age. Natal teeth might resemble normal primary teeth in terms of size and shape. However, they can be smaller, yellowish and root formation of the teeth may not be completed/total absence during the time of eruption. This lack of root development can cause mobility of the neonatal tooth.
HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS OF NEONATAL TEETH
- Neonatal teeth are commonly associated with superstitions and folklore.
- Historical figures such as Napoleon and Julius Caesar were born with natal teeth.
- In countries such as China, India, and etc, babies with natal teeth were considered demons and will be killed soon after birth.
- In European countries such as England, Italy, infants with natal teeth were considered as future leaders (soldiers and conquerors)
HOW COMMON ARE NATAL TEETH?
It is not very common for babies to have neonatal/natal teeth present at birth. The prevalence of teeth in newborns varies from 1:6000 to 1:800 cases .Female babies have higher prevalence compared to male babies. Natal teeth occur (present during birth) more often compared to neonatal teeth(teeth which are erupt during 30 days of life) mandibular incisors (your lower front teeth) are the most common natal teeth, followed by the maxillary incisors (the upper front teeth) and the lower canines and molars.
NATAL TEETH ARE ALSO KNOWN AS:
- Fetal teeth
- Congenital teeth
- Premature teeth
Babies who have natal/neonatal teeth are often associated with syndromes such as:
– Pachyonychia congenital(or known as Jackson-Lawler syndrome) This is a condition which primarily affects the nails and skin.
– Cleft lip and palate. Evidence has demonstrated that 2% of infants with unilateral cleft lip and palate are born with natal teeth and 10% of infants with bilateral cleft lip and palate have natal teeth.
Other associated syndromes are : Pierre Robin syndrome, soto syndrome (a medical condition which is associated with excessive growth around the first 2-3 years)
Thus, babies with natal teeth should be carefully investigated for other systemic conditions that can be associated with syndromes and other diseases.
WHAT IS THE ETIOLOGY/CAUSES OF NEONATAL TEETH?
- Etiology of neonatal teeth is still remain unknown and it is believed that infection, trauma, malnutrition, maternal exposure to environmental toxins, superficial position of tooth germ, congenital syphilis, family history are the causative factors of neonatal teeth.
COMPLICATIONS AND MANAGEMENT OF NEONATAL TEETH:
- Interfere with breastfeeding. The mother’s nipple and the infant’s tongue can be traumatized due to the presence of neonatal teeth. If it does occur, the tooth should be removed (the tooth is easily dislodged due to lack of root development) Mothers can also make use of breast pump and feed the infant with a milk bottle.
- If the neonatal tooth is not too mobile/firm, it can be retained to prevent the loss of space and further need of orthodontic treatment.
- Neonatal teeth can be so mobile that they may spontaneously exfoliate/dropped out. Thus, there may be a risk of aspiration or ingestion of the neonatal tooth. Hence, extraction is indicated if the neonatal tooth is very loose.
- Presence of neonatal teeth is often associated with Riga-Fede syndrome. Riga- Fede syndrome occurs when there is ulceration on the infant’s tongue due to the sharp edges of the neonatal teeth.
DO CONTACT YOUR DENTAL PRACTITIONER IF:
- Neonatal teeth are causing problems with your breast feeding.
- If ulcers develop especially on the ventral surface of the tongue /infant is experiencing pain while sucking or breast feeding.
- Neonatal teeth are very loose.
If the neonatal tooth is retained, mothers should always take good care of them by wiping it gently with a cloth.