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How Cleft Lips and Palates Impact Your Child’s Dental Health

A child with a cleft lip

Cleft lips and cleft palates are birth abnormalities of the lip and mouth. In the United States, around 6,800 children are born with cleft lips, palates, or both each year. Cleft lips and palates occur early on in pregnancy and prevent the sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth from fusing together properly. Children can have cleft lips, cleft palates, or both together. Please note that children born with a cleft are usually healthy otherwise and the most common problem associated with a cleft lip and/or palate is attempting to feed your baby.

  • Cleft Palate – This occurs when the roof of your child’s mouth doesn’t close all the way, leaving a large opening that can extend into his or her nasal cavity. This cleft can involve either side of the palate and can extend from the front of the mouth all the way to the throat.
  • Cleft Lip – A cleft lip occurs when the lip doesn’t form completely during fetal development. The degree of the cleft can vary greatly; from mild (a notch in the lip) to severe (a large opening from the lip that extends up through the nose).

Cleft Complications

Aside from appearance, clefts can cause other problems, including the following:

  • Ear infections and hearing loss –If a cleft palate extends to the throat, your child may experience recurrent ear infections, which may eventually lead to hearing loss.
  • Speech and language delays – Because of the opening in the roof the mouth or the lip, it may be difficult for your child to use the muscles that help with speech. This can cause a lisp or a delay in speech.
  • Feeding problems – These problems occur more with a cleft palate than a cleft lip. Your baby may be unable to properly such or latch because the roof of the mouth is not completely formed.
  • Dental problems – Lastly, clefts can cause a multitude of dental problems. Teeth may not erupt correctly, and a cleft may affect the alveolar ridge, which is the upper gum and bone that contain the teeth. Teeth may be in the wrong position, incorrectly shaped, or missing entirely. Orthodontic treatment is usually necessary.

A child with a cleft lip or palate will need a team of healthcare providers. For his or her dental health needs, an oral or maxillofacial surgeon, a pediatric dentist, and an orthodontist will be necessary.

If your child has a cleft lip or palate, please contact Piedmont Pediatric Dentistry here in Greensboro, NC for a dental cleaning and a checkup. We look forward to getting to know your children and helping to form a treatment plan!

Posted on Apr 13, 2020

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