What would happen to babies born with teeth – Expert
Pediatricians have reassured parents that babies born with one or two teeth are perfectly normal, dispelling long-held fears and myths surrounding such occurrences.
A study conducted by Bankole O et al. shed light on the myths associated with babies born with teeth, revealing that in Nigeria there was a widespread belief that these babies and their families were cursed, while outside of Nigeria, such babies were often regarded as vampires or monsters, with their teeth seen as a sign of the devil.
The experts emphasized that the presence of teeth in newborns, known as natal teeth, or in babies who grow teeth within the first month, called neonatal teeth, did not indicate any abnormalities or deformities.
They cautioned against removing the teeth, as doing so could potentially disrupt the natural growth and development of the child’s dentition.
It was also highlighted that parents of babies with natal or neonatal teeth should be vigilant to prevent the baby from inhaling the teeth if they happen to fall out, as this could pose a risk to the infant.
Professor Obafunke Denloye, a pediatric dentist at the Department of Child Oral Health, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, further emphasized that babies born with natal teeth were perfectly normal and healthy, akin to babies born through different birth variations.
“We all come with variations in the way we were born. For example, babies, whether they come out with their head, legs, or in breech form are all normal.
“Although most babies come through their head, any variation is what people term as abnormal. Everyone knows that when a baby is born, there is no tooth in the mouth but a few babies are born with one or two teeth in their mouth.
“There are two types, those born with teeth, called natal teeth, and those who within one month of birth start erupting teeth, called neonatal teeth.
“So it is just one of those variations in the eruption of baby teeth coming out too early. It is like seeing a six-month-old baby walking and people begin to scream. Should we now say the baby should not walk?” the paediatrician said.
She explained that people just witnessing such situations, coupled with societal beliefs, would see such children as abnormal.
Denloye further stated cases of babies with natal and neonatal teeth occurred but the frequency of occurrence was not much.
A study by Ella Holden et al, on the review and management recommendations of natal and neonatal teeth in 2022 stated that the condition was rare but the situation neonatal nurses might encounter throughout their careers.
The paediatric dentist also calmed the fears of breastfeeding mothers with natal teeth babies, stating that the tooth, if mobile, may fall out.
She however warned the mothers to be careful and watch for when the teeth fell out to ensure the child did not inhale the teeth into its lungs.
“One of the problems is breastfeeding. Many times when those teeth come out, especially the ones that come out within the first three to four weeks of birth, they are not as mobile as when a baby is newly born.
“The first three weeks of birth are very new, especially to a first-time mother whose nipples are still tender. So while trying to breastfeed, the edges of the teeth may traumatize her nipples so if she is so sore within the first week of delivery, she won’t be able to breastfeed,” she said.
Denloye also stated that natal and neonatal teeth were hereditary as most of the causes were not known.
Families who have seen natal babies before could be convinced to leave the teeth, the Child’s oral health physician said, adding, “At times, especially for neonatal teeth, the teeth become firmer and the mother can breastfeed.
“But the most important challenge is the taboo, running away from the child and tagging the child as a witch. In a society where this has never been seen, some people would harm the baby in different ways.
“But if we can convince the parents, we leave it and do regular reviews to be sure everything is okay.”
She further urged parents desperate for removal to refrain from going to quacks who could use unsterile instruments, thereby causing an infection.
Denloye also advised parents to wait until after eight days before removing the teeth, adding that after those days, the clothing mechanism of a child was in place to prevent bleeding.
“At times we take it out because it may cause ulceration of the mother’s nipple especially if it is not so mobile. Again, it can be displaced and the child can aspirate it. Most importantly, because of societal attitudes to it, which is negative to the mother, we take it out.
“But we also have cases where we’ve been able to convince the mother not to take it out because, at times, they are a part of the baby’s teeth that should come out at about six months.
“It is just that they are precautious eruptions, that is, they are too early. So, if you bring it out too early, the teeth that should come out at six months may not come out,” the professor said.
She further noted that taking out the natal/neonatal teeth could cause crowding when the permanent teeth grew.
The don also noted that crowding could be corrected but it was expensive and required the services of an orthodontist to straighten the teeth.
Another paediatrician who wished to remain anonymous stated that the danger of natal teeth was the possibility of the teeth dislodging and the child aspirating it into its lungs.
He also emphasised that natal/neonatal babies were normal, noting that such teeth could fall off before the usual teething stage.
“Some parents request for the teeth to be removed, but generally, we advise them to leave it as it would eventually fall off,” the paediatrician noted.