A cleft lip or cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. Approximately 1 out of 700 babies have this condition. This causes a visible separation in the skin of the top lip and, in the case of a cleft palate, a visible distortion of the upper jaw, and position of the teeth. The size and position of the teeth are also affected.
Children with this condition will need extensive corrective treatment. However, advances in dentistry, orthodontics and a growing number of cleft specialist teams that focus on craniofacial treatment, a cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated, minimizing the visible signs of this birth defect significantly. To do so, it is crucial that dental treatment begins early.
Parents should schedule the baby’s first visit with a pediatric dentist and orthodontic specialist before teething begins to assess the child’s facial growth. Once teeth emerge parents should introduce brushing and establish a healthy oral care routine. If the child’s primary teeth do not occlude (come together) correctly, an orthodontist may begin corrective treatment.
For children with a cleft lip or palate, it is imperative that they maintain a daily cleansing routine, use fluoride, and focus on nutrition as part of their treatment. Early and consistent dental care will correct the function of the jaw and improve the patient’s appearance and subsequently the child’s confidence. By developing a good oral health care routine and keeping regular dental appointments, in addition to treatment, it is possible for children with cleft palates to have healthy teeth and a beautiful smile.