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More orthodontic treatment needed among children born prematurely

28 April 2009 Expertsvar

Children born before week 33 may need more orthodontic care than full-term children do. Premature children also have more complicated deviations in their bite. This is shown in a new dissertation from Liselott Paulsson at the Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University, in Sweden.

“This is a new group of children who need to be given more attention in dental care,” says the specialist dentist Liselotte Paulsson at the Division for Odontology at Malmö University.  On April 24 she defended her dissertation Premature Birth – Studies on Orthodontic Treatment Need, Craniofacial Morphology, and Function.

Most children who are born prematurely need help with their respiration during the first few weeks of life. This means that they breathe with the aid of a plastic tube connected to a respirator. The tube is placed in either the mouth or the nose, so called intubation. Results of earlier studies have indicated that children that receive this breathing support run a greater risk of developing bite deviations.  The risk is especially great for those children who have had the tube in their mouth.

Today nasal intubation is used for the most part at Swedish hospitals, but Liselotte Paulsson’s studies show that these children also have more bite deviations than full-term children.

“In my studies the premature children had had intubation through the nose only,” she says, pointing out that it is important that the needs of these children be attended to in dental care.

A total of 114 children participated in the studies. They were divided into three groups: children born before week 29, children born between week 20 and 32, and full-term children born in week 40.

The children were examined when they were between eight and ten years old, and the results show that 52 percent of the premature children needed to be treated for bite deviations compared with 37 percent for the full-term children. The studies also show that the premature children weighed less, had smaller head circumferences, and had smaller upper jaws.

“It shows that they have not caught up in their growth. It may be these differences that underlie the fact that they have more bite deviations, but more research is needed before we can know this for certain,” says Liselotte Paulsson, who hopes it will therefore be possible to follow up these children between the ages of 16 and 17.

Even though they have more bite deviations and a greater need for orthodontic treatment, premature children do not have more symptoms in the form of pain in the jaws or jaw joints or headaches compared with other children.

“I’m happy to be able to give parents reassuring news on this point, and bite deviations can also be steered in the right direction using various forms of braces,” says Liselotte Paulsson.

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