by Dr. Spencer Mauseth, 4S Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

Shark Teeth

Don’t Panic About this Common Phenomenon

adv_encinitaspediatric2Avisit from the tooth fairy is a childhood rite of passage that usually happens around age five or six. It’s an exciting time for kids and parents alike. However, sometimes the excitement is overshadowed by concern if a permanent tooth erupts before the baby tooth falls out. If the adult tooth erupts behind the baby tooth, both teeth can be present at the same time. When this happens, it is called “shark teeth,” since sharks naturally have several rows of teeth. Although it may look and sound a bit scary, the occurrence of shark teeth is actually quite common and rarely becomes a long-term issue.

Shark teeth often develop around age six, which is when the lower front teeth (incisors) begin to erupt. Other children may experience shark teeth around age 11 when the upper back molars start to grow in. However, shark teeth can occur at any age and can also affect teeth other than the front incisors and back molars.
Typically, an adult tooth erupts directly underneath the root of the baby tooth, causing the baby tooth to loosen and eventually fall out. In this process, special cells called odontoclasts are produced. These cells cause the root of the baby tooth to dissolve and be reabsorbed. In turn, the baby tooth falls out, leaving room for the adult tooth to grow in its place. However, when the permanent tooth erupts behind the baby tooth, it is not pushing on the root of the baby tooth and the process is disrupted.

If the baby tooth is already loose while the adult tooth is coming in, the baby tooth may come out on its own. Since kids are prone to wiggle a loose tooth, this may aid in the process by disrupting root attachment. However, if the baby tooth remains firmly in place and the permanent tooth erupts completely, the baby tooth may need to be extracted.

While shark teeth are common and may not cause any problems down the road, it’s important to schedule regular appointments with a pediatric dentist to monitor the situation. Shark teeth can be hard to clean, so they can increase the risk of cavities or gum tissue problems. If the baby tooth does need to be extracted, a pediatric dentist can determine the right course of action.


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