Dental Outcomes of Preterm Infants

Diane L. Eastman, MA, RN, CPNP

Disclosures

NAINR. 2003;3(3) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Follow-up of preterm infants has focused primarily on neurodevelopmental outcomes. However, the long-term effects of prematurity involve multiple systems. Dental health issues and problems related to prematurity including problems of enamel defects, delayed eruption and tooth size, and oral defects associated with oral endotracheal intubation of preterm infants are the focus of this article. Implications for long-term care and follow-up of dental concerns are also discussed.

Preterm (premature) births are defined as those births occurring before 37 completed weeks of gestation.[1] Within this group of births are also included very low birth weight (VLBW) births, which include all infants weighing less than 1,500 grams, and extremely low birth weight (ELBW) births, which include all those weighing less than 1,000 grams.[1]

The techniques required to sustain life in very small preterm infants has had some effect on oral growth and also on complications within the oral cavity from such things as endotracheal tubes. Overall, enamel defects and the effects of oral tracheal intubation are probably the most common, but other issues include delayed dentition, permanent tooth crown dimension changes, posterior cross bites, and palatal asymmetry. The pathogenesis of these defects remains unclear but are likely caused by both systemic and local causes. Relatively little long-term data are available for some of the identified problems.

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