Interruption of Breast Feeding Caused by the Presence of Neonatal Teeth

Laura Guimarães PRIMO
Alessandra Castro ALVES
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil

Braz Dent J (1995) 6(2): 137-142 ISSN 0103-6440

| Introduction | Case reoprt | Discussion | Conclusions | References |

The authors report the case of a 6-month old girl treated at the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic at the School of Dentistry of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The patient's breast feeding was interrupted prematurely due to the presence of neonatal teeth. The authors have included a brief review of previous reports of this pathology.

Key words:neonatal tooth, breast feeding and eruption chronology.


The idea that a child should begin visits to the pediatric dentist only from about 3 years of age has been superseded. A child should be seen much earlier than this to begin preventive procedures and diagnose any developmental anomalies, such as primary teeth eruption chronology. In such cases the child is either born with teeth, or eruption occurs during the first days or weeks of life (McDonald and Avery, 1994).

According to Massler and Savara (1950), teeth which are present in the oral cavity at birth are called natal teeth, and those which erupt during the first thirty days of life are called neonatal teeth. They have also been called fetal teeth, congenital teeth, or detitio praecox.

The incidence of neonatal teeth is very low, approximately 1 in every 2000 births (Massler and Savara, 1950). Wong (1987) reports 1 in every 3000 births. With respect to position, 85% of the natal or neonatal teeth are lower incisors, 11% are upper incisors, 3% are molars or lower cuspids, and only 1% are upper molars or upper cuspids (Bodenhoff, 1960; Stewart et al., 1982; McDonald and Avery, 1994). Gerald et al. (1991) reported the case of a 2-day old child with an upper primary molar. Masatomi et al. (1991) reported a case of multiple malformed natal teeth, and the absence of the majority of the permanent successors.

McDonald and Avery (1994) and Stewart et al. (1982) frequently refer to these structures as pre-deciduous teeth. According to Shafer et al. (1985), they must be distinguished from genuine primary teeth and neonatal teeth. Pre-deciduous teeth have been described as epithelial structures, corniform, without roots, which occur in the gingival region over the alveolar ridge, and which can be easily removed. It is believed that they originate from an accessory germ of the dental lamina of a primary germ or of a germ of an accessory dental lamina.

However, according to Spourge and Feasby (1966) the elements called pre-deciduous teeth are merely cysts of the dental lamina of the newborn. Normally they are white, project above the alveolar ridge, and are full of compact keratin, appearing corniform.

The etiology is obscure (McDonald and Avery, 1994), although it might seem familiar as Bodenhoff (1960), Hals (1957) and Shafer et al. (1985) suggested. One of the causes of early eruptions could be dental germs developing immediately below the gingiva, or early maturation inducing eruptions (Shafer et al., 1985). According to McDonald and Avery (1994), there is no conclusive evidence of a relationship between early eruption and any systemic condition or syndrome. However, others have suggested an association with pachyonychia congenita (a rare hereditary disorder characterized by nail hypertrophy and dyskeratoses of skin and mucosa) (Shafer et al., 1985), Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome (Chow, 1980; Shafer et al., 1985), Pierre-Robin anomaly, Hallermann-Streiff syndrome (Chow, 1980), craniofacial dysostosis and steatocystoma multiplex (Ohishi et al., 1986).

To be able to determine the stage of root development and the relationship between the early erupted root and adjacent teeth, an X-ray is needed. The majority of early erupted teeth are extremely mobile because of the limited development of the root. Ohishi et al. (1986) reported a case in which six natal teeth were revealed. These teeth became mobile and were extracted, and poor root development was noted. It has been postulated that mobility causes degeneration of the Hertwig epithelial sheath thereby inhibiting development and root stability (Gerald et al., 1991).

Macroscopic inspection revealed badly calcified, milky white structures in the cervical third region, which had a slightly irregular junction between the two areas. The structures eroded rapidly with use (Souza et al., 1987). Fourteen structures similar to teeth but with malformed coronary structures were reported by Masatomi et al. (1991). The radiopacity corresponded to that of the mandibular bone. There was no root development, pulp chamber, or permanent successors, except for the upper incisors.

Histologically, these structures can present primless enamel (Chow, 1980) with several degrees of hypomineralization and poor dentin. Nevertheless, neonatal teeth without any enamel are rare (Darwish et al., 1987).

The natal and neonatal teeth can be extracted when they interfere with breast feeding, when they show extreme mobility or when they offer risk of dislocation and aspiration (McDonald and Avery, 1994). Wong (1987) recommends prophylactic injection of vitamin K before the extraction of neonatal teeth to prevent excessive hemorrhage. Local anesthetic is unnecessary, the use of topical anesthetic is sufficient. Rarely are sutures needed, and simple pressure with gauze for one to two minutes controls any bleeding (McDonald and Avery, 1994). Post-operative procedures are usually uneventful (Ohishi et al., 1986; Souza et al., 1987).

To avoid ulceration beneath the tongue, biting of the opposite gingiva and to attenuate lesion injury to the mother's breast, any sharp edges of the teeth can be removed, and the mother advised to bottle-feed the child. The preferred procedure is to maintain the teeth in place, and explain to the parents the importance of the teeth in the development and normal eruption of adjacent teeth (McDonald and Avery, 1994).

Therefore, the objective of this report is to provide details of a case that was seen at the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in which the child's breast feeding was interrupted due to neonatal elements.

Case report

J.H.O., a six month-old, white, female baby, was brought by her parents to the dentistry clinic with the main complaint that the child cried during feeding, indicating pain, and bleeding around two erupted teeth in the region of the lower central incisors, which had erupted approximately 15 days after birth. Breast feeding was replaced by bottle feeding because of the mother's discomfort during breast feeding after the teeth had erupted.

Neonatal tooth was diagnosed. The mother confirmed that there was no previous family history of this pathology. Clinical examination revealed two dental structures in which the incisor borders had no enamel and had exposed dentin (Figure 1A). Tactile examination of the elements revealed mobility while the alveolar ridge remained firm. The gingiva texture around them was very hyperemic. The X-ray (Figure 1B) revealed two slightly mineralized structures, with dentinary remains on the incisor border. The pulp chambers were wide and the apexes open. There was no bone support. Due to bleeding, mobility and difficulty in feeding it was decided to extract the teeth.

Figure 1 - A, Clinical aspect of the two dental structures located in the lower alveolar ridge without enamel at the incisor border exposing the dentin to the oral environment. B, Lower anterior periapical radio-graph showing two struc- tures hypomineralized with the remains of dentin in the incisor border, wide pulp chambers and open apexes.

In a subsequent visit, the child was treated with the mother present. The child was examined with the dentist and the parent seated face to face with their knees touching. Their upper legs formed the examination table for the child. The child's legs straddle the parent's body, allowing the parent to restrain the child's legs and arms to comfort the child (McDonald and Avery, 1994). A topical anesthetic was used, and the teeth (Figure 2) extracted with a periosteal elevator. Sterile gauze compression was used for hemostasis.

Figure 2 - Neonatal teeth confirming the underdeveloped root structure, which would not permit the maintenance of the structures in the dental arch.


Diagnosis and treatment of the neonatal tooth pathology is well known by pediatric dentists. However, in the present case, several points merit discussion. The child was 6 months old, an unusual age since most literature is related to newborns (Massler and Savara, 1950; Bodenhoff, 1960; Spourge and Feasby, 1966; Shafer et al., 1985; Souza et al., 1987; McDonald and Avery, 1994). Due to the long period between the appearance of the teeth and the parents' first visit to the clinic, the fragile structures of the teeth were already deformed causing pain, bleeding, and mobility. Consequently, the mother had to interrupt breast feeding. It is widely accepted that breast feeding is the most comforting and absorbing activity for the baby during the first 6 months of life. In breast feeding the baby bonds with the mother (Ribble, 1975) and receives important immunological factors. In suckling not only does the child satiate hunger, but also experiences its first sensations, and creates its relationship with the external world (Segovia, 1977). Thus, breast feeding nourishes the child and smoothes the path of emotional development, thereby diminishing the potential for anxiety (Ribble, 1975). In the present case, because breast feeding was replaced by bottle feeding, the baby was deprived of some of these benefits temporarily.

Although the X-ray examination did not lead to a conclusive diagnosis as to whether the teeth were primary incisors or supernumerary, a radical intervention was carried out due to the symptomatology, and the clinical aspect which would not permit the maintenance of the structures in the dental arch. Although the child was chronologically in accordance with the eruption phase of these specific teeth, the remainder of the teeth had no enamel or bone support sustaining the root. In this case the probability of aspiration was greatly increased, as confirmed in the literature (Massler and Savara, 1950; Hals, 1957; Spourge and Feasby, 1966). The treatment, exodontia, which has been widely reported (Massler and Savara, 1950; Souza et al., 1987; Gerald et al., 1991; Masatomi et al., 1991; McDonald and Avery, 1994), made it possible for the child to recommence breast feeding for its better mental and physical development.


The bonding between mother and child which is fostered by breast feeding is highly regarded. Through breast feeding the child receives immunological factors and starts developing suckling which is very important to its general over-all development. In cases where developmental anomalies curtail breast feeding, i.e., neonatal teeth, intervention by the pediatrician and pediatric dentist is warranted to determine the diagnosis and the best treatment, in order to maintain the normal relationship between mother and child. This emphasizes the importance of an early relationship between the young patient and the pediatric dentist for the diagnosis and treatment of pathologies that influence not only the oral state, but also the general development of the child.


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Correspondence:Laura Guimarães Primo, Disciplina de Odontopediatria, Faculdade de Odontologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Av. Brigadeiro Trompowsky, s/n, Cidade Universitária, Ilha do Fundão, 21941-590 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil, Tel./Fax: (021) 290-8148.

Accepted September 25, 1995
Electronic publication: March, 1996