'Not a curse': Grappling with newborn natal teeth

The cause of natal teeth is unknown.

In Summary

• The first teeth that poke through the gums are the central incisors, which are located on the bottom front.

• While most infants get their first teeth months after birth, some babies are born with one or more teeth. 

Teething is a normal part of a baby’s development during the first year of his or her life.
Teething is a normal part of a baby’s development during the first year of his or her life.
Image: COURTESY

Teething is a normal part of a baby’s development during the first year of his or her life.

Most babies get their first tooth between four and seven months.

It is at this point that their first teeth will prop up normally and come with fever, diarrhoea among other effects of growing teeth.

The first teeth that poke through the gums are the central incisors, which are located on the bottom front.

 

While most infants get their first teeth months after birth, some babies are born with one or more teeth. 

These are called natal teeth. Natal teeth are relatively rare, occurring in about one out of every 2,000 births.

Nancy Wangari 30, tells the Star that her baby boy was born with teeth which left her shocked up to date.

“This is my first birth and I have never heard situations where babies are born with teeth. In my case, my baby had two teeth,” she said.

Sitting with her baby on a balcony in Nairobi’s Kawangware area, Wangari said that she only realised that the baby had teeth after a few days of being outside the hospital.

“You know when he was born, it's rare to see his mouth unless you forcefully open it. So after like a week, I realised that he bit me. When I checked I saw two teeth,” she said.

“I was shocked and at the same time confused because I did not know how to handle the situation.”

 

The next day, Wangari, who is happily married said that she took the baby to the hospital.

“After I saw the doctor, I was told to monitor the baby. I was to check if the teeth are affecting his milk intake or if he is not breathing properly,” she said.

But Wangari did not fully trust the doctors and she called her mother in law who later gave her the herbs to give the baby.

“It is the herbs that I have been using for the longest time possible. And the teeth are disappearing which is also a relief to me,” she said.

But what exactly are natal teeth?

Natal teeth are teeth that are present when a baby is born. Although some mums call it plastic teeth, these are real teeth that are often not fully developed and may have a weak root.

The cause of natal teeth is unknown. But they may be more likely to occur in children with certain health problems that affect growth.

Speaking to the Star, paediatrician Claire Ngeta said the teeth that are perceived by mothers are just gums that are enlarged.

“The teeth that we see in children do not have roots. So you find that they are mobile in the sense that when a child removes his tongue outside the teeth moves in that direction,” she said.

 “Now with this kind of movement, a baby can easily choke on them if they were to fall off and swallow them."
Claire Ngeta says 

Ngeta said that the teeth are weak and can easily fall off. Natal teeth happen in only about one in 2,500 births.

 “Now with this kind of movement, a baby can easily choke on them if they were to fall off and swallow them,” she said.

She notes that the only way to ensure that they don't choke on them is by removing the teeth.

“They can be extracted if they cause a risk to the baby. If the baby cannot feed because of the teeth then he or she has to be saved by removing the teeth,” she said.

But she notes that if the baby is not having any problems with the teeth then the teeth should not be interfered with.

“Extraction is not for every child. If the teeth have grown well then there is no need to touch them. These are the teeth that the baby will have. If you extract them then your baby will not have teeth until he reaches six years of age,” she said. 

Most babies get their primary teeth, often the lower front teeth, beginning at six months of age

“It might just be a problem for the mum because of how people will judge the baby based on the teeth. Purely psychological but if it’s worrying then you can see a dentist.”

A 2014 literature review published in the Indian Journal of Dentistry indicates that 15 per cent of babies born with natal teeth have close relatives who were born with a weird little tooth, as well.