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Long-term Preemie Issues

Hearing and Dental Problems of Preemies

Hearing Problems of Preemies

Preemies are considered at high risk for hearing problems. Watch out for these symptoms as your baby gets older:

  • 3 months: Baby doesn't recognize mother's voice or turn his head toward the direction of a sound.
  • 6 months: Baby doesn't enjoy vocal play or make noise in numerous tones.
  • 9 months: Baby doesn't turn his head when you call.
  • 12 months: Baby doesn't babble or isn't able to say "mama."
  • 18 months: Baby doesn't respond to requests or move to the rhythm of music.
  • 24 months: Baby's speech is difficult to understand, and he can't follow simple directions.

Speech and hearing therapists can help improve communication with a child who has hearing problems. Most hearing difficulties can be treated by hearing aids. If the loss is severe, children can be taught other forms of communication such as sign language or lip reading.


Dental Problems of Preemies

Preemies have a greater tendency than other babies to suffer from dental problems. This may be a result of delayed tooth formation or gums that are altered by breathing tubes.

The dental problems a preemie is susceptible to include:

  • Abnormal enamel formation
  • Slow or delayed teething
  • High arch or groove to the palate
  • Abnormal bite

Often small abnormalities in enamel formation aren't visible. More severe abnormalities are noticeable, such as a gray or brownish color or an uneven surface and abnormal shape. The baby teeth are most often affected with enamel problems. Sometimes the first permanent teeth are affected, but usually to a lesser degree.

A high arched palate, often the result of breathing tubes, can affect a child's speech and bite. Most children seem to adapt to the shape of their palate. However, a preemie may be more likely to need braces when she's older.

Often dental problems look worse than they actually are. Teeth with enamel problems tend to be prone to cavities, but dental care and regular brushing can prevent this problem. Here are several ways to prevent tooth decay:

  • Bring your baby for a dentist's appointment around her first birthday, recommends The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
  • Develop good toothbrushing habits as soon as the teeth break through the gums. The teeth should be cleaned two times a day — first thing in the morning and before bedtime.
  • Avoid the habit of letting your child sleep at night or nap with a bottle. It can cause decay so severe that it destroys the teeth.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Reviewed 2/02 by Jane Forester, MD

Content courtesy of American Baby.

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