The process of losing baby teeth and growing in permanent teeth can be very exciting for children; after all, who doesn’t love a visit from the tooth fairy! Usually this begins around age 4 or 5 and continues over the course of several years, until all the baby teeth are replaced with permanent ones. In most cases this process progresses smoothly, with baby teeth falling out and permanent teeth replacing them in the appropriate spaces. However, sometimes there are issues with this process. One of the most common conditions is called ‘shark teeth’  in which a permanent tooth grows in before the baby tooth falls out.

What are ‘shark teeth’ ?

Shark Teeth (also known as an ‘ectopic eruption’ in the dental world) refers to the situation in which a child’s permanent teeth start to grow in before the corresponding baby tooth has fallen out. If a baby tooth is in the way, a permanent tooth may sprout behind it, giving the child two rows of teeth at once. This nickname comes from the fact that sharks have a double row of teeth. Shark teeth are most common in the lower incisors, however they can also occur in the upper incisors or primary molars.

Usually the permanent teeth dissolve the roots of the permanent teeth as they move up, but sometimes due to crowding or atypical positioning, the permanent teeth are forced to erupt behind the baby teeth. 

Shark teeth most commonly occur during two periods in a child’s development. The first time is around age 6, when the lower front teeth usually grow in. The second is around age 11, when the upper back molars appear.

How are shark teeth treated?

Shark teeth often don’t require any treatment. If a permanent tooth hasn’t come in all the way and the baby tooth is getting progressively looser, the situation will likely resolve on its own. If the new tooth continues to grow in and the baby tooth does not loosen, you should schedule an appointment at our Guelph Dentist office.

In some cases a permanent tooth comes in completely behind the baby tooth, leaving nothing to push or dissolve the root. This allows the baby tooth to stay in place. In this situation, the baby tooth likely will need to be extracted. The new tooth typically moves forward into the correct place once the obstruction is gone. It can take a few weeks, or even months, for the permanent tooth to completely move into position.

If your child has one shark tooth, there is a good chance that another shark tooth may follow. It is always a good idea to watch and monitor the progress of your child’s teeth to see if more shark teeth develop.

Do I need to worry about shark teeth?

If your child has shark teeth it is understandable to feel a bit worried about it, as well as the general growth and development of their permanent teeth. There are three things to consider when assessing whether your child’s shark teeth need to be seen by a dentist:

Time – If the baby tooth isn’t wiggly and doesn’t come out within two months you should have your dentist take a look at it. 

Place – If your child’s teeth are coming in behind the molars or the upper incisors this may cause crowding issues and is a good reason to have your child seen by their dentist. Your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist to help oversee the development and positioning of the permanent teeth. 

Discomfort – If a shark tooth is causing pain or discomfort beyond the normal sensation of having a wiggly tooth it’s a good idea to give your dentist a call. Whether it’s to give advice on foods that might help the tooth along (Did someone say apples?!), how to manage the discomfort with over the counter pain medications or to simply set up an appointment to have a look ourselves, we are always happy to help ease any discomfort our patients might be experiencing. 

Fortunately shark teeth are usually very simple and easy to treat; and most of these cases resolve without issue. If your child does need an extraction of an over-retained baby tooth, you can be assured that our amazing Dentists and assistants will do everything they can to make sure the procedure is as easy and painless as possible. Usually the tooth is already a bit loose and the extraction can be done relatively easily. If you are concerned about your child’s teeth or would like to learn more don’t hesitate to contact us at our Guelph dentist office. Tooth fairy time is such a fun and exciting phase for children, and we want to help support you and your child through the process, especially when those baby teeth are extra stubborn!

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