Caring for a Child with a Cleft Lip/Palate

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Cleft palate is a relatively common birth defect among Canadian children and can have an impact on how your child may receive dental care. Although certain practices during pregnancy increase the risk of a cleft lip or palate, they also tend to run in families and are more common than you might think. If you are a parent of a child with a cleft lip or palate, contact your local kid-friendly dentist in Orangeville to receive more information about how you can properly care for your child's oral health.


What is a Cleft Lip/Palate?


The word cleft simply means an opening or space made by a split. A cleft lip happens when there is a physical split in the upper lip on one or both sides of the centre. This separation sometimes extends beyond the base of the nose and may include the bones of the upper jaw or upper gum. A cleft palate is when there is a split or opening at the roof of the mouth, also known as the palate. A cleft lip and palate are often associated with each other.

How does it affect your child's dental care?


Although a cleft lip/palate can often be treated with surgery within the first year of life, it may affect the amount, size, and position of your child's teeth. Children with this condition often have a higher number of cavities and likely require orthodontic services due to malformed teeth. Oral surgery may be required if there are issues with permanent teeth erupting properly. A kid-friendly dentist will be able to provide routine dental care if your child has this condition but many other health care team members may be involved such as: orthodontist, oral surgeon, and speech pathologist.


What does it mean for future dental care?


A child's dental care with a cleft is similar to those without a cleft. However, since there may be early complications with tooth malformation in the early stages, it is important that children with cleft lip/palates undergo early screening and assessment in order to best treat their needs. If early dental care and assessments are performed, a child with a cleft can often live with health teeth. They may also need a bone graft performed in order to fill the upper gum line and support adult teeth while stabilizing the jaw. After permanent teeth come in, they may require braces to help straighten out teeth for the future. Just like any other child, a healthy mouth requires proper and consistent cleanings, good nutrition practices, and regular fluoride treatments.  


Children with a cleft lip or palate require early and regular dental checkup to assess their needs. Generally, kids who suffer from this condition follow the same dental hygiene practices as kids who don't including: good nutrition habits, proper cleaning with a soft bristle brush, and regular fluoride treatments. Your dentist will be involved in the routine checkups while other healthcare professionals may be required for surgical treatments and speech development.
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