Friday, March 25, 2011

Tales from the Teeth

Wagner said his first word, “hi,” (old news) and he waves when he says it.  It’s really cute because he says it in a higher pitch than his normal speaking—er, uh, babbling voice, presumably because when we say “hi-i!” we also say it in a higher-than-usual voice.  Michael waves at “hi,” too, but hasn’t really said anything yet.  Wagner has also said “peek-a-boo” (breaking news).  It came out “eek-boo.”  The wheels are really starting to turn for Wagner regarding language.  I think it will still be slow going, but we’re starting to get there. 

And now the bad news—the boys are missing quite a bit of enamel on their top teeth.  Enamel is something that forms in the third trimester of pregnancy and while the Internet estimates that 80% of preemies born this young have enamel hypoplasia (fancy tooth talk for “not enough enamel to go around”), we don’t know of anyone in our small circle of preemie friends that suffer from this condition.

It literally looks like a coat of paint is missing on their top teeth.  It’s white on the sides and near the gum, but the center of the tooth is yellowish and a little mealy looking.  The enamel on the sides of the teeth is a little raised.  It reminds me of a halved section of garlic that has sprouted.

I noticed it last Friday (March 18) and on Monday we made an appointment with the dentist who fit us in on Tuesday (there happened to be a cancellation). 

Yes, the boys have enamel hypoplasia.  No, the enamel won’t grow back.  Yes, their permanent teeth will be similarly affected.  The most we can do is aggressively work to prevent cavities.  When they are older they can get sealant, and if they get cavities before then we can get crowns, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to apply sealant now when they have only 3 and half top teeth apiece.

The pediatric dentist showed us how to brush their teeth (with a little finger glove that has bristles) and how to floss their teeth (with a little plastic flosser called “Mr. Flossman).  She told us all about xylitol, a natural sugar that kills bacteria (“Why didn’t you tell me!” you are thinking) and gives you diarrhea if you have too much (“Thanks for telling me!” you are thinking).  Oh – and don’t give it to dogs.

Then she gave the boys an iodine rinse and a fluoride varnish.  We go back in three months for more of the same.

We went home armed with xlylitol toothpaste gel called “Xlyitots” for twice a day brushing, xylitol drops called “Xyliteeth” for twice a day rinsing and little antibacterial tooth wipes called “Spiffies” for twice a day tooth wiping. 

Next up:  Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth


  1. Great post. Made me google about enamel. The more I learn about preemies, the more I realize how amazing you parents are--you do it all and then some more.

  2. I had no idea about the importance of enamel -- although I should! (And yikes, that's kind of scary re: the fact that xylitol is okay for babies but not for dogs?)

  3. Good job noticing this issue quickly and addressing it with your usual positive attitude! Give the boys a big wave and "HELLO" for me.