Natal teeth, sometimes called fetal teeth, are present in the mouth of a baby at birth. This is an uncommon condition, appearing in only about one in 2,000 to 3,000 newborns. It is typically an isolated incident, but in rare cases their presence can indicate another health problem.
The natal teeth should not be confused with neonatal teeth. Neonatal teeth erupt in the infant's mount during the first month of life. Natal teeth actually are the infant's primary teeth, or baby teeth, that have grown while the baby was still in the womb.
Natal teeth usually are present on the lower gum and are most often the primary mandibular incisors. They often are loose and wobbly. Normally, they have an undeveloped root structure, and instead connect by soft tissue to the gums.
The presence of natal teeth is usually an isolated issue. Their presence is not necessarily an indication of any health problems. If a baby is born with all of their teeth erupted, however, that may be an indication of a hormonal condition such as hyperthroidism. Sometimes, the presence of natal teeth may be associated with other syndromes, including Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, Hallermann-Streiff syndrom, Pierre Robin syndrome, or Soto's syndrome.
Natal teeth can cause a newborn some pain. They could be sharp or formed irregularly. These teeth may make nursing difficult, or cause trauma and irritation to the tongue while nursing. Nursing mothers may also experience discomfort or pain.
If natal teeth show at birth, a doctor will perform a thorough examination of the mouth and document the teeth. Dental x-rays may be taken. If there are signs that any syndrome associated with natal teeth is present, testing for that condition will also be performed.
Treatment of natal teeth may involve smoothing the teeth edges to prevent discomfort during breastfeeding, or possibly tooth extraction. The teeth are only extracted if their presence causes feeding difficulties for the infant or the mother. If the teeth are especially loose, these can be removed shortly after birth to prevent the baby from inhaling the tooth.
If the natal teeth do not get removed, it is important to examine the baby's gums, tongue, and cheeks often to ensure they are not harming the baby. The teeth should also be kept clean by gently wiping them with a clean, damp cloth. If they cause a sore mouth or tongue to develop, or if the baby is having trouble nursing, a health care professional should be consulted.