Preemies have a greater tendency than other babies to suffer from dental problems. This may be a result of delayed tooth formation or gums that are altered by breathing tubes.
The dental problems a preemie is susceptible to include:
- Abnormal enamel formation
- Slow or delayed teething
- High arch or groove to the palate
- Abnormal bite
Often small abnormalities in enamel formation aren't visible. More severe abnormalities are noticeable, such as a gray or brownish color or an uneven surface and abnormal shape. The baby teeth are most often affected with enamel problems. Sometimes the first permanent teeth are affected, but usually to a lesser degree.
A high arched palate, often the result of breathing tubes, can affect a child's speech and bite. Most children seem to adapt to the shape of their palate. However, a preemie may be more likely to need braces when she's older.
Often dental problems look worse than they actually are. Teeth with enamel problems tend to be prone to cavities, but dental care and regular brushing can prevent this problem. Here are several ways to prevent tooth decay:
- Bring your baby for a dentist's appointment around her first birthday, recommends The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
- Develop good toothbrushing habits as soon as the teeth break through the gums. The teeth should be cleaned two times a day -- first thing in the morning and before bedtime.
- Avoid the habit of letting your child sleep at night or nap with a bottle. It can cause decay so severe that it destroys the teeth.
Reviewed 2/02 by Jane Forester, MD
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.