What are Shark Teeth and How Can it Affect My Child?
It's exciting for children when they start to lose their baby teeth and start receiving visits from the Tooth Fairy. Sometimes, however, the process doesn't unfold as smoothly as it should, and the permanent tooth erupts while the baby tooth is still in place. These are called shark teeth, as sharks naturally have two rows of teeth.
How Do Shark Teeth Occur?
Under normal circumstances, a child begins to lose baby teeth around age five. Molars continue to erupt throughout the teens until all the adult teeth have grown in. Shark teeth are most likely to develop around age six, which is when the lower front teeth (front incisors) begin to grow in. The next most likely time is about age eleven when the upper back molars erupt. However, shark teeth can happen at any age and can affect other teeth. Generally, the permanent tooth begins to grow and push on the baby tooth. Special cells called odontoclasts cause the root of the baby tooth to dissolve and be reabsorbed, allowing the tooth to fall out.
To Treat or Not to Treat?
Sometimes shark teeth don't need to be treated; even though the new tooth is erupting, the baby tooth gradually gets looser and falls out on its own. Children being children will typically wiggle the loose tooth, which also helps disrupt the root attachment. If this process goes awry, the permanent tooth just pushes up behind the baby tooth. However, sometimes the baby tooth remains firmly in place. The new permanent tooth erupts completely, and there is no pressure on the baby tooth to dissolve the root. In that case, the baby tooth should be extracted. The new tooth will eventually move into the correct position, although it may take a few weeks or even months.
The Treatment Process
If one shark tooth appears – for example, one of the front incisors is a shark tooth – it's quite likely that the other will be as well. For that reason, most dentists recommend waiting until both teeth in the pair have erupted before extracting the baby teeth. This is easier for the child than having two extraction procedures. Since shark teeth tend to occur in relatively young children, we usually recommend IV sedation dentistry for the removal process. The child will be comfortable and often has no memory of the extraction. For older children, a local anesthetic plus some nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is usually sufficient. It also helps if your child has already become familiar with the dentist and staff, which is a good reason to begin dental visits at a young age.
Shark teeth aren't an abnormal condition and may not cause any problems, but they do increase the risk of tooth decay because it can be harder to clean them. They may also cause crowded teeth over the long term. At Wright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we can solve this problem. Please contact us today for an appointment.