Fact CheckHealth

Debunking the myth about children’s “unusual” growth of first teeth in upper jaw

Claim: There is a popular notion in many parts of the world that it is unusual for a child to grow their upper teeth first.

Findings show there is nothing unusual or spiritual about the upper teeth coming out first in children.

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The primary teeth of babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, usually appear at six or seven months old. And Colleen de Bellefonds, an expert in pregnancy, health and nutrition reports that, an average first baby tooth emerges at 6 or 7 months, but sometimes these may appear at around 12 months (or even later). 

Some babies get their first teeth very early, at around three or four months old. Normally, the bottom front teeth (also known as central incisors) appear first. Sometimes, this ‘normal pattern’ of teeth growth is reversed, as the upper front teeth come first.

This article examines some beliefs about a baby’s first upper front teeth and what the fact is.


The human teeth, those hard, resistant structures occurring on the jaws and in the mouth, are used for catching and masticating food, for defence, and for other special purposes. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the first set of teeth are called primary teeth while the second set are called permanent ones. Humans have 20 primary and 32 permanent teeth.

Tooth eruption occurs when the teeth become visible. While tooth eruption occurs at different times for different people, a general eruption timeline exists.

According to this timeline, dentition starts with the appearance of the bottom teeth known as the central incisors between 6 to 10 months  and lasts until six or seven years when the teeth are shed.

Screenshot of AAP’s teeth guide.

From the foregoing, it is safe to deduce that the lower teeth appear first in human beings. However, in some cases, the upper teeth appear first in some children.

The Upper Teeth First: Myth and Fact 

Some people believe that when a baby gets upper teeth first, he or she will grow up to become a prophet. These babies are usually treated with reverence. When such children grow up, it is believed that whatever they say will come to pass. In other words, parents of such babies tenderly handle them and try not to make them angry, even during their formative years.

Due to the belief by parents that such children’s tongues have special powers, such children are raised to learn to be careful about the words they utter and the things they wish for themselves or for others.

While there are different time frames and patterns for babies’ growth milestones from teeth growth to walking, babies differ and some babies may not follow the pattern that most people have grown up to accept as normal.

Baby’s teeth may erupt in a different pattern than what’s considered the normal pattern. For instance, a child’s front upper teeth may erupt first and this is considered abnormal in many Nigerian cultures. 

This phenomenon has attained the status of a myth, and children with such conditions are labelled weird or spirit beings. Families with such babies tend to hide them from the public eye. 

According to an article by Pulse on teeth myths, the frost of a baby’s upper first teeth is believed to mean that the child has got prophetic powers. 

‘Some people believe that a child that grows the upper tooth first will grow up to become a prophet. These babies are usually treated with reverence. When such a child grows up, it is believed whatever they say will come to pass‘, part of the article reads.

The article quickly dismissed this as a myth, stating that even though mothers could get worried, it is equally normal.

Image of the Upper Front Teeth first appearing. Photo Credit: www.lupinepublishers.com 

Dr Gbemisola Boyede, a developmental and community paediatrician and member of the Swansea University Health Boardalso, insists in the article, Dispelling the Baby Upper Teeth First Myth Eleyin Oke, that although ‘many cultures attribute different meanings to this condition as being a good or bad omen, it is only a myth.

For her, even though developing the upper teeth first seems abnormal, and its exact cause is still unknown, it might be a pointer to other undiscovered underlying medical conditions that may require thorough medical examinations. Dr Gbemisola Boyede, however, says that the teeth must not be removed by force.

This myth about upper teeth first appearance is not specific to Africa alone.  In some parts of India, the myth is also peddled by people. In an article, Baby Teething Myths and Misconceptions that Parents Should Know, it is thought to bring bad luck to families. 

However, Julie Adeboye, a blogger and freelance writer, quoting the  National Health Service in the UK, writes that it is merely a myth, and should not be a source of worry for mothers when their baby’s top teeth grow first. Also, a foundation of pediatricians dismisses the claim as a myth that has no scientific backing, especially the belief that such babies are witches or wizards with extraordinary powers. 

Image of the human teeth. Photo Credit: @AbrahamAkinbami.

Expert’s Opinion

This researcher contacted oral health professionals and dental surgeons to get more information on the matter.

Dr Abraham Akinbami, a dental surgeon, said there is really no serious implication if the upper set of teeth comes out before the lower.

‘The only thing that we do is just to take x-rays to make sure that the lower set of teeth are close by and about to come out, so, there is no hide and fast rule about it’, he said.

Dr Akinbami insists that there is no spiritual indication for the upper teeth appearing first in children, and that it is just a biological phenomenon.  ‘No, nothing spiritual, nothing supernatural, the child is not a superhuman. The body just decided that, it happens, like I said, it is a variation, so, it may be one in 100, or one in a thousand. I don’t have the correct figures, but if it happens, it happens. There’s nothing supernatural or spiritual about it,’ he added.

In case a child grows the upper teeth first, Dr Akinbami cautions against removing the teeth, and urges parents to seek medical counsel: 

‘So, if this goes out, and the person is still not convinced, just go to the dentist, just take your baby to the dentist and lodge your complaints. But, please, do not attempt to remove the tooth yourself’, Dr Akinbami noted. 

Another dental surgeon, Oluwayemisi Ikumelo, said what seems normal may differ because every individual is genetically peculiar. Dr Ikumelo  added that when the upper front teeth erupt first, it may not be something out of the blue. However, investigations can reveal if there are factors that may have caused the delay of the lower set.

In the same vein, Dr Adesola Odofin said that, although the Yoruba people in Nigeria believe that it’s abnormal, there is nothing abnormal about it. She added that if the upper teeth appear first, there must be no attempt to remove them. She also debunked the myth that children born with upper teeth first are spiritual. 

‘If the child brings up the upper teeth first, then, so be it, there is nothing wrong about it. We have the myth of “eleyin oke” that whatever the child says comes to pass. Those are just myths, they are not true, it doesn’t happen like that. Such teeth should not be removed because there won’t be any replacement for them until it is time for the permanent teeth to come out,she said.


There is sufficient evidence from reviewed articles and several oral health and dental surgeons consulted that there is nothing unusual or spiritual about the upper teeth erupting first in children. The idea is a myth that has been debunked by medicine.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Splash 105.5 FM Ibadan to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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