Watch for "Preemie" Teeth
Even though they do not have any teeth yet, prematurely born babies can expect to have dental complications as they grow older.
About 6 percent of babies are born before their due date and below 7.2 pounds, and of these, up to 70 percent will have enamel hypoplasia when their teeth erupt, according to a 2000 study. Enamel hypoplasia causes teeth to appear brownish and less smooth, as well as to be softer and more prone to decay or chipping.
"You won't discover this until your child is about 6 months old, because that's about the time when the baby's first tooth would erupt," says Henry Finger, DDS, FAGD, past president and spokesperson of the Academy of General Dentistry. "Prematurely born children should see a dentist when their first tooth erupts to avoid any dental complications."
Children with the lowest birthweight and shortest gestational ages have the lowest rates of dental development, particularly before 6 years of age, according to the study. Children who are born prematurely can have delays in the eruption of their baby teeth and even their permanent teeth.
The front teeth are the first to erupt at 6 to 8 months, and the back teeth erupt between 18 and 24 months. Prematurely born children should visit the dentist regularly, even at this early stage, because they are more likely to be candidates for cavities than children born at term.
Updated: February 2007