Did you know a shark can have up to 35,000 teeth during its life? That’s A LOT of teeth! How can they fit so many into their mouths at the same time? Well they only have around 50-300 in their mouths at any given time. But still, that’s also A LOT of teeth! Unlike most animals, sharks have several rows of teeth to allow for hundreds to be present at a time. So what does this have to do with your child’s teeth?
Several times per week I have a parent come in with a concern that their child has new teeth growing in behind their baby teeth. This most often occurs on the lower teeth at the front of the mouth. The permanent tooth (or teeth) breaks through the gums into the mouth behind the lower baby teeth and creates a second row. This is what most dentists affectionately call “Shark Teeth”.
Shark teeth in kids are a very common occurrence and are not an urgent matter. The permanent teeth in the front of the face all develop not straight above, but slightly behind the baby teeth. Most of the time their path of eruption into the mouth caries them forward and straight through the previously existing baby teeth, dissolving (also called resorbing) the baby teeth as they come. However this precise pathway is not always followed. Quite frequently, the path of eruption is abnormal. For the lower teeth in front, the abnormal pathway is almost always directly behind the baby teeth.
If your child has shark teeth, the ultimate goal is to remove the baby tooth. Once there is no baby tooth in the way, the permanent tooth usually drifts forward all by itself (providing there is sufficient space for it) and assumes it’s proper position.
There are a couple different options of how to remove the baby tooth. First, you can just wait and wiggle. Sometimes, as the permanent tooth continues to erupt it will dissolve the baby tooth further. This will cause the baby tooth to become more mobile all by itself. If you also encourage your child to wiggle the baby tooth aggressively, you can often remove the baby tooth at home and be good to go. However once the permanent tooth has erupted nearly to the level of the baby tooth, there will be no further dissolving of the baby tooth. At that point, it is best to see your dentist, as they are pros at wiggling out baby teeth. If the baby or permanent teeth cause pain or discomfort at any time, it is best to see your dentist for an evaluation and discussion about options for your child.
While it can be a little startling to see those shark teeth in your kids, know that many children have gone through the same thing. In fact, there are probably more kids with shark teeth than teeth in sharks. And that’s A LOT.