Monday, June 15, 2009

Dental Problems and Prematurity

Teething is a challenge for all babies and parents, however, preemies (surprise, surprise) have it just a little bit harder. Last night, while putting my little man to bed, I discovered two more teeth coming in. That makes a total of 6, two bottom, four top. Today he is an awful mood, eating only cold things and fussing constantly for no real reason other than the constant pain in his mouth. Now, I know that the symptoms of teething are the same for preemies and non-preemies but we as preemie parents have "teething issues" that non-preemie parents usually know nothing about.

First of all, we are often left wondering if our children are ever going to to get any teeth at all. Delayed tooth eruption is very common in preemies. You can expect for your preemie to get their teeth about 2-6 months late. Colton's first teeth came in when he was already 13 months old.

Enamel hypoplasia, or the lack of enamel, is four times more common in preemies than in full term children. This can lead to frequent cavaties and requires routine brushing and dental visits.

Tooth discoloration is something preemie parents are warned about long before their child's teeth begin to appear and generally appears in infants who have high bilirubin levels in the NICU. Colton's teeth have a yellow/brownish tint. This discoloration cannot be removed by brushing or visits to the dentist but is only seen in the child's baby teeth.

A palatal groove is a narrow groove in the roof of the mouth, caused by intubation in the NICU. Colton also has this problem. This can lead to crowding and poor positioning of the teeth as well as sucking and speech problems.

It is recommended that all children see a dentist by their first birthday. Colton did not have any teeth at this time so we are just now discussing what dentist we would like him to see. I bet that will be a fun visit, NOT!

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