Dental Problems



Prevalence of enamel defects in premature children, care and treatment options.
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Sara Alshammery,  Mais Alomran, Noura Alturki

’...There is enough research to show that intubation of premature babies could later affect the palate of these babies…’

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‘The size of teeth in premature children are smaller than that of children who were full-term, according to a study by the Faculty of Odontology at Malmö University in Sweden.’


Premature babies have a higher chance for developing dental problems as school aged kids. The majority of a baby’s stores of calcium and phosphorus are accumulated in the third trimester of pregnancy so when a baby is born premature, they do not have these accumulated stores.

Problems include enamel hypoplasia, tooth discoloration, palatal groove and a possible increased risk for needing braces.

Enamel hypoplasia means there is a lack of enamel on the outside of the teeth. This can lead to the thin enamel chipping away in which the teeth are more prone to fracture. Causes are when the baby has breathing tubes in NICU as well as a lack of nutrients in the NICU.  School aged children are more likely to develop cavities in their teeth and will need careful routine brushing and close monitoring.

Tooth discoloration occurs in premature babies that had high bilirubin levels in the NICU.  A yellow or brown colour is seen only on the primary teeth and cannot be removed by brushing or having them cleaned by the dentist.

A palatal groove is a narrow groove in the roof of the mouth, which is caused by the baby having breathing tubes in the NICU. Some premature babies have developed grooves after having breathing tubes for as few as seven days, but generally speaking, the longer the time, the more likely a palatal groove will develop. It can result in overcrowding or poor positioning of the teeth which may increase the chance for needing braces.


As parents we can be empowered by doing the following with our child:

  • Develop good toothbrushing habits, teeth should be cleaned two times a day, first thing in morning and before bedtime.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks.
  • Attend regular dentist appointments with your child every 6-12 months.

Parents should talk to their child’s dentist on ways that they can improve the dental hygiene of their child. The dentist can also inform them of what might lie ahead in terms of getting their child’s teeth restored. Being educated and informed can ease any anxiety they might feel.

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].