How To Deal With Your Child's Pediatric Shark Teeth

Imagine having your child open his or her mouth, only to see what appears to be a double set of upper or lower teeth. This phenomenon, commonly known as "shark" teeth, happens more often than you'd think.

Although it's not usually considered a dental emergency, it is something that should be dealt with as soon as possible. The following offers an in-depth explanation of how shark teeth can occur and a couple of ways you can deal with the issue.

Understanding the Cause

As your child's permanent adult teeth emerge, the permanent tooth grows underneath the existing baby tooth, slowly dissolving the root holding the baby tooth in place. When the entire root is nearly dissolved, the baby tooth becomes loose and eventually falls out. This leaves plenty of space for the permanent tooth to finally emerge in its place.

In some cases, there isn't enough room for the permanent tooth to grow underneath the baby tooth, usually due to crowding by the surrounding teeth. In others, the baby tooth's roots might not have dissolved soon enough to make way for the permanent tooth. When this happens, the permanent tooth instead takes the path of least resistance and erupts behind the baby tooth.

The end result is a double row of teeth whose appearance resembles a shark's teeth layout. This phenomenon can happen at any point of a child's tooth development, although it most commonly happens when the permanent lower front teeth and upper back molars are coming in.

Playing the Waiting Game

In most cases, the problem of pediatric shark teeth usually takes care of itself. The baby tooth in front of the erupting permanent tooth may simply fall out or wind up being wiggled out by your child. It's only when the baby tooth proves particularly stubborn that further action is needed.

When Extractions May Be Necessary

If the baby tooth in question fails to fall out after approximately three weeks, then you may need to have your child's orthodontist take a close look. Your orthodontist will remove the baby tooth and, if necessary, slim down the surrounding teeth to give the permanent tooth enough space to move into position.

Afterwards, the force exerted by your child's tongue will help move the permanent tooth into its proper position over time. It's a good idea to have periodic checkups with your family dentist just to make sure the permanent tooth is moving into the right place.