Dealing with dental issues after a premature birth

Children who are born prematurely have a higher risk of some dental issues, including delayed appearance of milk teeth, soft or missing tooth enamel ('enamel hypoplasia') and discoloured teeth. The extent of dental issues in prematurely born children is increases with the extent of prematurity.

If your child was born prematurely, there are a range of things you can do to help deal with these issues.

Enamel hypoplasia

If your child has enamel issues, they will be more vulnerable to caries and decay. Enamel hypoplasia is caused by a combination of oxygen intubation in the NICU and the fact that enamel minersalisation primarily occurs during the second half of pregnancy and prematurely born babies do not get as much time in the womb developing enamel.

You can help prevent serious consequences by regularly scheduling dental checkups for your children from their first birthday at a suitably experienced paediatric dentist like Redland Bay Dental Surgery Toothwise. They can help to advise you and your child on the best tooth brushing techniques to prevent caries and decay, as well as providing reflouridising treatments to the tooth surface on any problem areas. In most cases this issue only affect the baby teeth, and the adult teeth are unaffected, but regular checkups with a dentist are best to see if your child is likely to have similar issues on their adult teeth.

Slow appearance of baby teeth

Slow appearance of baby teeth is also common. This does not cause any significant issues for children, as the gum and jaw are very strong and can help to 'chew' on any soft food you might give a young child. The teeth usually come in in a similar pattern, and catch up to the normal progression of baby teeth.

Discoloured teeth

Discoloured teeth usually occurs when premature babies get jaundice and have a high level of biribilumin. This can lead to a yellowish brown tint to the teeth. This is not damaging but can be embarrassing for children. While again this usually resolves by the time adult teeth come through, it can lead to a lack of confidence in children. Cosmetic dentistry including veneers on the front of the teeth can disguise the staining and create the impression of white teeth, leading to a confident smile.

 While premature babies are more vulnerable to dental problems, by regularly seeing a paediatric dentist you can avoid serious complications and get early treatment for any issues that do arise.