Life

Ask the Dentist: Having extra teeth doesn't mean you're a shark – unless it's a full set

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, says having extra teeth isn't that uncommon and it doesn't mean you're a shark

Sharks can have many rows of teeth and lost teeth can be replaced within a day
Lucy Stock

WOULDN’T it be great if we could just grow another tooth when we lost one? Although not related to sharks, there are humans that exist who actually do grow a third set of teeth. This is known as hyperdontia and these teeth can grow anywhere in the mouth.

Parents often notice the condition of hyperdontia as their child develops. True hyperdontia is often mistaken for normal tooth eruption, as sometimes you can see two rows of teeth in children. Instead of the adult tooth growing directly below the baby tooth and pushing it out, the adult tooth has gone slightly off course and has grown in behind the baby tooth. The baby tooth will eventually fall out on its own but sometimes needs a bit of gentle persuasion by the dentist to help it come out.

Normally there are 20 teeth that grow in when you’re a child and these are called primary teeth. The 32 adult teeth that replace them are called permanent teeth. Extra teeth, often called supernumerary teeth, are twice as common in men than they are in women. Typically, you will come across them nestled between the front teeth.

However, it's normally one or two extra teeth, not a whole set. According to Guinness World Records, the world record holder for the greatest number of teeth is a man called Vijay Kumar from India. He has 37 teeth in his mouth – just five more than the average person.

There are many photos on the web of mouths with dozens of extra teeth where image-editing software has had more than a hand in their creation or they are show extremely crowded teeth that just need pushed into better alignment.

While researchers have not reached an agreed-upon cause for hyperdontia, the disruption or stimulation of the cells in the jawline is a possible cause. Studies show that one to two per cent of otherwise healthy children may develop extra teeth. Hyperdontia is also associated with some syndromes and found in people with a cleft lip or palate.

If the extra tooth is not causing any problem, it can just be left. However, sometimes they get in the way, causing the normal adult teeth to erupt in spread apart or even cause a barrier to them erupting into the mouth at all.

So, accepting that we are not alligators who can regenerate a lost tooth up to 50 times or a shark who can erupt a new tooth within minutes of losing one, we will just have to wait until scientists have cracked regenerating teeth before we get an entire third set.

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