May 28, 2024
Shark Teeth in Kids

As children begin losing their baby teeth around ages 5-7, their permanent adult teeth start coming in to take their place. This is an exciting milestone!

However, sometimes, a complication called “shark teeth” can occur when the permanent teeth erupt before the baby teeth fall out.

This results in a double row of teeth that resembles a shark’s mouth. It is also known as ectopic tooth eruption in medical terms and is not very common. It is present in 0.7% of children in India.

What are Shark Teeth in Kids?

The term “shark teeth” or “ectopic teeth eruption” refers to the situation when a child’s permanent adult teeth start coming in behind their primary or baby teeth before the baby teeth have fallen out.

This results in the child having two rows of teeth (extra teeth behind teeth), resembling the multiple rows of teeth that sharks have. Around 2-6% of American kids have shark teeth.

Shark teeth typically occur between ages 5-7 years old, when the permanent teeth first begin erupting. It is most commonly seen affecting the lower front teeth but can also happen with the upper front teeth or primary molars.

When Do Shark Teeth Usually Occur?

While shark teeth can happen whenever permanent teeth push through, the condition most often occurs:

  • Age 6: When the lower permanent front teeth erupt. The lower incisors are the first permanent teeth to develop.
  • Age 11-13: When the canines (vampire teeth) emerge.

In a nutshell, shark teeth can occure in children between the age of 6 to age 14 as this is a period when children get permanent teeh replacing baby teeth.

What Causes Shark Teeth?

Shark teeth occur when a child’s permanent teeth come in before their baby teeth fall out. This leaves them with a double row of teeth that resembles a shark’s sharp chompers. There are a few reasons this can happen:

  • Delayed loss of baby teeth: The roots of the baby teeth don’t properly dissolve away as the permanent teeth push up underneath. So the baby teeth stay firmly in place instead of becoming loose and falling out.
  • Misaligned permanent teeth: The incoming permanent teeth develop at an angle and erupt behind or in front of the baby teeth instead of erupting straight up in the same spot.
  • Early permanent tooth eruption: Permanent teeth may emerge early before the baby teeth roots naturally loosen. This is common when the 6-year molars come in.

Preventive Care for Shark Teeth

To help avoid complications, be diligent about your child’s dental hygiene if they have shark teeth:

  • Brush and floss thoroughly to prevent plaque buildup and tooth decay in the crowded area.
  • Massage gums with clean fingers to stimulate blood flow
  • Avoid hard/sticky foods which can damage baby teeth
  • Monitor for pain, swelling, or other concerns
  • See the dentist every 6 months to monitor tooth eruption and alignment.
  • Get sealants applied to protect permanent molars when they first emerge.

Should I Worry About Shark Teeth?

  • While startling in appearance, shark teeth generally don’t cause problems, provided the situation is addressed in a timely manner.
  • The concern is leaving a retaining baby tooth in place too long can force the incoming permanent tooth to erupt incorrectly.
  • The ideal solution is extracting baby teeth that are stubbornly retaining.
  • This allows proper permanent tooth positioning.

Also Read: When Do Kids Stop Losing Teeth? You Must Know This As A Parent

Is Treatment Needed?

In many cases, shark teeth resolve on their own without treatment as the permanent teeth continue to erupt and eventually force out the baby teeth. However, treatment may be recommended if:

  • The double row of teeth causes discomfort or affects your child’s bite.
  • The baby tooth is so firmly rooted that the permanent tooth erupts severely out of position.
  • The condition persists long-term without improvement.

How to Treat Shark Teeth in Children?

In many cases, shark teeth resolve on their own as the permanent teeth fully emerge and push out the baby teeth. But sometimes intervention is needed:

1.     Monitoring

The dentist may decide to just monitor the situation at regular dental visits. The condition may improve over time as the teeth continue to erupt.

2.     Extraction

Pulling out firmly rooted baby teeth makes room for the permanent teeth to shift into the correct position.

3.     Dental appliances

Spacers or other appliances may create space for impacted permanent teeth to erupt.

When to Consult a Dentist

Consult your pediatric dentist right away if your child has:

  • Severe discomfort or difficulty eating due to shark teeth.
  • Permanent teeth coming in very crooked or crowded.
  • Baby teeth are still in place long after permanent teeth have erupted.
  • Permanent teeth are emerging out of sequence (i.e., molars before front teeth).

Conclusion

While shark teeth may look concerning, in most cases, they are harmless and resolve on their own. However, staying on top of your child’s dental development and care can help prevent any complications. With proper monitoring and treatment when needed, your child’s shark teeth should transition into a perfectly aligned, healthy, permanent smile.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shark Teeth in Kids

Is Shark Teeth in Kids Normal?

Yes, shark teeth are fairly common in kids. It happens when the permanent teeth start coming in before the baby teeth fall out, typically between ages 5-7. While visually jarring, it is a normal part of the tooth-eruption process and usually resolves on its own without issues.

What Causes Shark Tooth in Kids?

The main causes of shark teeth are:

  • The roots of the baby teeth not naturally dissolving in time for the permanent teeth to erupt
  • The permanent teeth erupting at an angle and not directly impacting the roots of the baby teeth
  • Insufficient space in the jaw for the larger permanent teeth
  • Less commonly, trauma, genetics, or oral conditions
  • Ankylosis of primary teeth is one of the reasons behind ectopic tooth eruption.
  • Baby tooth roots not resorbing properly

Are Shark Teeth in Kids Genetic?

No, shark teeth are not primarily genetic. While genetics can play a minor role, the main causes are localized mechanical factors that disrupt the natural tooth eruption process. Studies show siblings have only a slightly higher chance of also developing shark teeth.

Are Shark Teeth in Kids Painful?

Shark teeth are not inherently painful. The double rows of teeth may look concerning but are rarely problematic. However, if the baby tooth becomes overly firm and does not wiggle due to the permanent tooth erupting behind it, this can sometimes cause discomfort when chewing. When food starts lodging between the teeth, it can cause dental caries or tooth decay, which leads to pain. Consulting a dentist can determine if the baby tooth needs extraction for relief.

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