Shark Teeth: When Should You Worry?

Normally, the permanent teeth develop underneath the primary (baby) teeth. When the permanent teeth are ready to come in, they begin to dissolve the root of the primary tooth, eventually causing the baby tooth to become loose. The goal is for the permanent tooth to occupy the exact same spot in the mouth as the baby tooth occupied.

In some cases, however, the eruption path of the permanent tooth doesn’t completely interact with the roots of the baby tooth. This means that all or part of the primary roots don’t begin to dissolve and they remain solid. Since the permanent tooth continues to erupt, it may come through the gums behind or in front of the baby tooth – this is called “ectopic eruption”.

We frequently observe ectopic eruption in children who don’t have enough room to accommodate the larger adult teeth, but there can be other reasons, too. While it can be somewhat alarming to see “shark teeth” in your child, don’t worry – it’s quite common!

You can ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is my child in that tooth loss time frame? (typically ages 5-7 when the first permanent teeth beginning to appear in the front and again around ages 10-12 as back permanent teeth make their appearance)
  • Is the primary tooth starting to wiggle?
  • Am I more bothered by the situation than my kid?

If you answered yes to all three questions, you’re probably in the clear! That adult tooth will do exactly what’s it’s supposed to dissolving the baby tooth’s root, pushing it out, and then eventually taking its proper place in line.

When do I need to take my child to the dentist?

That’s a great question, and the real answer is “any time you are concerned about your child’s dental health.” Really! We’re glad you’re playing an active role in caring for your kid’s teeth, and we’re happy to answer your questions and schedule an appointment if necessary!

But when are “shark teeth” a real concern?

There are instances when a “shark tooth” is a good reason for a dental visit. Think about 3 things … time, place, and discomfort.

Time: If the baby tooth doesn’t get wiggly and simply won’t budge within three months, it may be time for an evaluation appointment.

Place: Are your child’s shark teeth coming in behind or in front of the primary molars? This might cause crowding issues, and if your kiddo hasn’t seen an orthodontist yet, now might be the time. Speak to your dentist about the possibility of an orthodontic consultation.

Discomfort: If a shark tooth is causing your child pain or discomfort beyond just the normal “it hurts when it wiggles,” it’s a good idea to give us a call. Whether we can give advice on foods that often help this wiggly tooth along (apples! apples! apples!), over-the-counter pain medications to help with pain and inflammation, or simply set up an appointment to take a look ourselves, we’re happy to help when it comes to our patients and their discomfort.

Usually shark teeth are no problem, but when in doubt give us a call!