What are natal teeth?
Natal teeth are teeth that are present when the infant is born. About one in every 2,000 newborn infants have natal teeth. These are not the same as neonatal teeth that erupt in the infant's mouth during the first month of life. Natal teeth are usually the infant's primary teeth (or baby teeth) that have come in early. The teeth are often loose because the root is not completely developed. Problems that may occur as a result of these teeth include the following:
- problems with breastfeeding, as the infant may bite the mother
- potential risk of the infant inhaling the tooth into his/her airway and lungs if the tooth becomes dislodged
Epstein's pearls are a type of benign cyst (fluid-filled sac) that occur on the roof of the infant's mouth. They are small, white bumps that are commonly seen in infants; 65-85% of all infants get them. Epstein's pearls are harmless and do not require treatment. The cysts will spontaneously resolve themselves over a period of weeks, in most cases.
Diagnosis of natal teeth:
Natal teeth are usually diagnosed based on a complete history and physical examination of your infant. The teeth can be seen and usually allow for a diagnosis simply on physical examination. Your infant's physician or pediatric dentist may also order x-rays (a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film) of the infant's mouth to help in the evaluation of the problem.
Management of natal teeth:
Teeth that are loose may need to be removed to decrease the risk of the infant inhaling the tooth into his/her airways. This will be decided by your infant's dentist. Early removal of the teeth may lead to over-crowding of the permanent teeth when they erupt.
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