Biting

Did my baby’s teeth hurt me?

Biting can cause pain and damage to the nipple and areola, so it is important to control this behaviour. Some babies deliberately bite. Breastfeeding a baby with top front teeth for long periods at night can cause a wound on the areola. If a baby’s front tooth has a sharp spike, it can be ground down by a dentist so it no longer causes pain. Some babies are born with one or more teeth. A dentist will consider pulling a tooth if it is loose and may pose a choking risk, if it may affect the alignment of teeth, or if it is causing pain or damage to the baby’s tongue or to the mother’s nipple.

A) Injuries from teeth

Babies can cause pain and damage by biting the nipple and areola with their front teeth, so it is important to identify a cause and stop this behaviour. 

Occasionally, a pressure sore suddenly develops on the areola because a baby with top front teeth has been feeding for long periods in the same position as with bed-sharing. You may notice a scab or sore spot for a few days, after which a small, deep wound develops.

B) Abnormal teeth

This baby was born with two lower front teeth.

Some babies have an abnormal front tooth which increases the risk of injury.

1) Spiked tooth

Rarely, a baby’s front tooth will have a sharp spike. You can easily feel this with your finger. This is treated by a dentist, who can grind the spike down to where it no longer causes pain. A spiked top front tooth can damage the nipple and a spiked lower front tooth can injure the baby’s tongue. We have seen this once in our clinic.

2) Born with a tooth

Some babies are born with one or more teeth; this is called a natal tooth. The most common natal tooth is a lower front tooth (incisor), but other natal teeth can also appear in the baby’s mouth.

An X-ray can help determine whether a tooth is normal or an extra one. Dentists will consider pulling out a natal tooth if it is (Khandelwal 2013):

  • A loose tooth that may pose a choking risk.
  • An extra tooth that may affect the alignment of the normal teeth.
  • A tooth that is causing pain or damage to the baby’s tongue or the mother’s nipple (Jamani 2018).

References

Jamani NA, Ardini YD, Harun NA. Neonatal tooth with Riga-Fide disease affecting breastfeeding: a case report. Int Breastfeed J. 2018 Jul 27;13:35
 
Khandelwal V, Nayak UA, Nayak PA, et al. Management  of an  infant  having  natal teeth. BMJ Case Rep. 2013 Jun 3;2013