You might think the weirdest part of your kid's teeth is the fact that they do such a terrible job of brushing them, and yet they haven't rotted or completely fallen out yet. And maybe for your kid, that's true, but for other children, all kinds of craziness can occur within those tiny mouths. Check out these not totally unusual childhood dental issues — including one currently going on in my daughter's mouth that's named after a lethal sea animal — that put a mere lack of good dental hygiene to shame!
1. Newborn, Complete With Teeth
Baby teeth start to form when the baby is in the womb, but in most cases, the first one won't emerge from a child's gums until they are 6 to 12 months old. However, some babies are born sporting one or more already erupted pearly whites, surprising their parents. These teeth, technically called natal teeth, are usually just regular baby teeth that have come in six months early. Although they can cause anxiety for breastfeeding mothers, they're really nothing to worry about.
2. Double Teeth
Notice your child's baby teeth don't quite look normal? Some baby teeth appear to be two teeth stuck together as one tooth, a condition caused by either gemination or fusion. Germination is when one developing tooth splits off into two different teeth that remain attached to each other and develop together. When you count that "double tooth" as one tooth, the child will have a normal number of teeth. Fusion is when two different developing teeth join together to create one tooth. Although fusion looks very similar to germination, in the case of a fused tooth, when you count the total number of teeth, the child will be missing one.
3. Shark Teeth
Ordinarily, as the permanent teeth push up in your child's mouth, the roots of the baby teeth dissolve and that baby tooth eventually falls out. However, for some kids (including my own 5-year-old daughter), the baby teeth don't fall out, and the permanent teeth come in right behind them. The condition is technically called lingually erupting mandibular incisors, but more commonly known as shark teeth (sharks have two rows of teeth). Shark teeth are fairly common, occurring in as many as one in 10 kids. They usually resolve themselves as the adult tooth erupts more and more, eventually causing the baby tooth to fall out, but if not, your dentist might have to intervene and extract the baby tooth to prevent crowding issues.
4. Congenitally Missing Teeth
Most people have 32 permanent teeth, but about 20 percent of us don't, with one or more of our teeth failing to fully develop in a condition called congenitally missing teeth or, in scientific terms, hypodontia. Usually a dentist will rectify this dental situation with an implant or bridge, though in some cases, adults might still have a baby tooth that wasn't pushed out by their missing permanent tooth!
5. Knocked Out
The American Dental Association estimates that by the time kids graduate from high school, one in three boys and one in four girls have experienced a traumatic injury to their teeth. And as many parents of toddlers know, that occasionally means your kid could end up without a tooth or two for years. Baby teeth are a lot easier to knock out than permanent teeth because their crowns (the visible, top part of the tooth) are a lot longer than their roots, so if your kid has a massive face plant, they might come up without a tooth.
If that happens, first of all, you need to find the missing tooth to make sure it wasn't breathed into the child's airway. Then it's time to see your dentist. In most cases, especially if your child's tooth was already loose, you'll be advised to live with that gap until the permanent tooth emerges (even if that occurrence is years away). In some cases, your dentist might suggest reimplanting the tooth, but this is a case-by-case decision and will only be an option if you see your dentist right away.
6. Tooth-y Stem Cells
Regretting not storing your baby's cord blood? In a new push for banking stem cells, companies like Tooth Bank are storing dental stem cells, which have the ability to regenerate into various cell types. A dental professional extracts your child's baby tooth, then dental stem cells are harvested from the dental pulp within the tooth, and those dental stem cells are preserved and cryogenically frozen. Like cord-blood banking, the process isn't cheap. Expect to pay around $500 for the extraction and processing and another $100-plus per year for storage.