Paediatricians have said that babies with one or two teeth present at birth were perfectly normal.

This statement dispels the fears, age-long myths, and discomforts parents and relatives have when their babies are born with teeth.

They discouraged parents of such children from removing the teeth, warning that the removal could later disrupt the proper growth and dentition of the child.

A study by Bankole O et al, on dispelling myths associated with natal/neonatal teeth found out that irrespective of the social class, Nigerians believed that babies with natal and neonatal teeth and their families were cursed.

Outside of Nigeria, such babies were believed to be a vampire or monsters and the teeth were a sacrilegious sign and the mark of the devil.

As a result, the parents, relatives, and in some cases nurses, as the report stated, usually insisted on the removal of the teeth and spiritual cleansing.

The child health experts explained that in newborns, the teeth are called natal teeth, and neonatal teeth in babies grow these teeth after one month of birth.

Usually, a baby starts erupting teeth at six months but the pediatricians explained that babies with natal or neonatal teeth had early onset of teeth growth and likened the situation to babies who started walking at six months.

The paediatricians, however, warned mothers of such babies to exercise extreme care and watchfulness to ensure the baby did not inhale the teeth into their lungs when it fell off, stating that this might bring harm to the baby.

A paediatric dentist at the Department of Child Oral Health, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, Professor Obafunke Denloye, stated that newborns with natal teeth were normal and proper children without any deformity.

She explained that since some babies were born through different birth variations, the same principle applied to babies with natal teeth or teeth.

“We all come with variations in the way we were born. For example, babies, whether they come out with their head, legs, or in breech form are all normal.”

“Although most babies come through their head, any variation is what people term as abnormal. Everyone knows that when a baby is born, there is no tooth in the mouth but a few babies are born with one or two teeth in their mouth.”

“There are two types, those born with teeth, called natal teeth, and those who within one month of birth start erupting teeth, called neonatal teeth.”

“So it is just one of those variations in the eruption of baby teeth coming out too early. It is like seeing a six-month-old baby walking and people begin to scream. Should we now say the baby should not walk?” the paediatrician said.

She explained that people just witnessing such situations, coupled with societal beliefs, would see such children as abnormal.

Denloye further stated cases of babies with natal and neonatal teeth occurred but the frequency of occurrence was not much.

A study by Ella Holden et al, on the review and management recommendations of natal and neonatal teeth in 2022 stated that the condition was rare but the situation neonatal nurses might encounter throughout their careers.

The paediatric dentist also calmed the fears of breastfeeding mothers with natal teeth babies, stating that the tooth, if mobile, may fall out.

She however warned the mothers to be careful and watch for when the teeth fell out to ensure the child did not inhale the teeth into its lungs.

“One of the problems is breastfeeding. Many times when those teeth come out, especially the ones that come out within the first three to four weeks of birth, they are not as mobile as when a baby is newly born.”

“The first three weeks of birth are very new, especially to a first-time mother whose nipples are still tender. So while trying to breastfeed, the edges of the teeth may traumatize her nipples so if she is so sore within the first week of delivery, she won’t be able to breastfeed,” she said.

Denloye also stated that natal and neonatal teeth were hereditary as most of the causes were not known.

Families who have seen natal babies before could be convinced to leave the teeth, the Child’s oral health physician said, adding, “At times, especially for neonatal teeth, the teeth become firmer and the mother can breastfeed.”

“But the most important challenge is the taboo, running away from the child and tagging the child as a witch. In a society where this has never been seen, some people would harm the baby in different ways.”

“But if we can convince the parents, we leave it and do regular reviews to be sure everything is okay.”

She further urged parents desperate for removal to refrain from going to quacks who could use unsterile instruments, thereby causing an infection.

Denloye also advised parents to wait until after eight days before removing the teeth, adding that after those days, the clothing mechanism of a child was in place to prevent bleeding.

“At times we take it out because it may cause ulceration of the mother’s nipple especially if it is not so mobile. Again, it can be displaced and the child can aspirate it. Most importantly, because of societal attitudes to it, which is negative to the mother, we take it out.”

“But we also have cases where we’ve been able to convince the mother not to take it out because, at times, they are a part of the baby’s teeth that should come out at about six months.”

“It is just that they are precautious eruptions, that is, they are too early. So, if you bring it out too early, the teeth that should come out at six months may not come out,” the professor said.

She further noted that taking out the natal/neonatal teeth could cause crowding when the permanent teeth grew.

The don also noted that crowding could be corrected but it was expensive and required the services of an orthodontist to straighten the teeth.

Another paediatrician who wished to remain anonymous stated that the danger of natal teeth was the possibility of the teeth dislodging and the child aspirating it into its lungs.

He also emphasised that natal/neonatal babies were normal, noting that such teeth could fall off before the usual teething stage.

“Some parents request for the teeth to be removed, but generally, we advise them to leave it as it would eventually fall off,” the paediatrician noted.








@ Punch Newspaper

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