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Dental Health and a Cleft Lip or Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy.  In fact, orofacial clefts are one of the most prevalent birth defects in the United States.  Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area and the tissue that is available is not joining properly. Children may be born with either a cleft lip, a cleft palate or even both.

What is a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate?

The cleft palate is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth and may involve either the bony front portion of the mouth (the hard palate), the soft tissue towards the back of the roof of the mouth (the soft palate) or both palates.

The cleft lip is a split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and may appear as a gap in the skin of the lip.  In frequent cases it may even extend beyond the base of the nose and expose the upper gums or jaw bones.

Face with cleft lip

Increased Risk of Dental Issues

A child born with an orofacial cleft will have an increased risk of dental issues even with good dental hygiene and regular visits.

A child with a cleft lip and/or palate may also have issues with salivary glands.  And because a lack of saliva increases the growth of bacteria in the mouth, dental problems are more likely to occur.

Children with clefts are also more prone to having displaced, malformed, missing, or extra teeth.  This results in increased number of cavities.

Lastly, the cleft palate itself affects the mouth structure and the placement of permanent teeth.

Importance of Regular Dental Care

The dental care and regiment is typically based on the severity of the orofacial cleft. Parents should be involved in the daily dental routine of their young children and seek to find the best plan of action from their dentist.

Your dentist will help determine what should be resolved at their office or when to bring a specialist onto the case.  Addressing these problems at an early age can prevent years of further issues.