“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.

Liselotte Paulsson
E-mail: liselotte.paulsson@mah.se
Phone: +46 (0)40 – 6658473
Cell phone: +46 (0)708-705669