Nearly every child hits an awkward stage at some point in their development. A great example is the transition period between a mouth full of baby teeth and having a complete adult smile. One complication that’s relatively common during this phase is the development of “shark teeth.” This occurs when the baby teeth don’t fall out on schedule and the permanent teeth come in behind them. This results in a double row of teeth that’s often concerning for both kids and parents. Keep reading below to learn more about this phenomenon and what can be done about it!
Why Do Some Kids Have Shark Teeth?
Normally, the permanent teeth develop just underneath the baby tooth. When the permanent teeth are ready to come in, they begin to dissolve out the baby tooth root, eventually causing the baby tooth to become loose. The goal is for the permanent tooth to occupy the exact same spot in the mouth as the baby tooth occupied.
In some cases, however, the roots of the baby teeth don’t begin to dissolve and they remain solid. Since the permanent tooth still needs somewhere to go, it erupts through the gums behind the baby tooth – this is called “ectopic eruption”. We frequently observe ectopic eruption in children who don’t have enough room to accommodate the larger adult teeth, but there can be other reasons, too. While it can be somewhat alarming to see “shark teeth” in your child, don’t worry – it’s quite common!
What Can Be Done About Shark Teeth?
The way you handle shark teeth depends on the baby tooth. If it’s even a little loose, have your child try to wiggle it several times a day to further loosen it. In many of these cases, the baby tooth will eventually fall out on its own, and the permanent tooth will move into place.
However, if the baby tooth isn’t loose and feels very solid, make an appointment with a pediatric dentist to have it looked at. After evaluating your child’s teeth, they’ll make the best recommendation, which could include extracting the baby tooth or simply giving it time to become loose on its own.
What Happens If I Do Nothing?
Sometimes, if the baby tooth isn’t lost in a timely manner, the gums attach very low to the permanent tooth presenting as gingival recession. This can result in the need for a gum graft when the child is older.
If an extraction is best, rest assured that it will be a relatively easy appointment for your child (i.e. the roots of baby teeth are much smaller and shorter, so they can be removed a lot easier than a permanent tooth in an adult.) But, a word from the wise, let us explain the process to your child – we can break it down into very simple steps that aren’t scary at all!
As a parent, it’s natural to be worried when you see an extra row of teeth in your child. By knowing that it’s not only common but also easy to handle, you can rest a lot easier!
About the Author
Dr. Mira Albert is a board-certified pediatric dentist who is passionate about helping children achieve great oral health. At each visit, she evaluates her patients’ erupting teeth to anticipate potential problems like “shark teeth” and take the appropriate steps to treat them. If you have any questions about your child’s teeth, she can be reached via her website.