Dental Considerations for Cleft Lip Patients

Posted on: 4 March 2015

A cleft lip is a birth defect that begins in-utero, and usually affects an infant's upper lip. It appears as a split or opening in the front of the upper lip and may continue up to the base of the nose. A cleft lip is often accompanied by with a cleft palate, which is a split in the roof of the mouth. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, though medications taken during pregnancy may play a role.

Some researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors lead to this condition, and even consider whether stress and emotional trauma are triggers. Regardless of this cause, this unsightly deformation of the face brings with it a number of dental challenges. If your child suffers from a cleft lip or palate, make sure you find a dentist who is knowledgeable and experienced in treating children with this condition.

Special dental issues associated with a cleft lip

  • The teeth may be irregularly positioned because a cleft lip disrupts the normal alignment and number of both baby and permanent teeth.
  • Some teeth may be missing altogether, such as the lateral incisors.
  • Growth of the jaw and facial bones may not be normal and should be regularly monitored.
  • The upper and lower teeth may not fit together properly.
  • Brushing the teeth may be particularly challenging and require special guidance.

The dentist's role in cleft lip treatment

Treating a cleft lip or palate is a team effort and a lengthy process. Make sure that the dentist on your child's team is an expert with excellent references.

  • Surgery to correct a cleft lip involves both a general surgeon and a dental surgeon, and at a later date usually an orthodontist.
  • While your child is under general anesthesia for bone and tissue restorative procedures, his dentist can perform tooth extractions and repairs at the same time.
  • The dentist's input is important when the surgeon works to correct any bone defects present in the maxilla (the bones which form the upper jaw and palate of the mouth).
  • Reconstruction of the maxilla may require a bone graft, and an orthodontist may be needed to construct a temporary retainer to support the new jaw structure.
  • When your child nears or reaches adolescence, a follow-up evaluation of the jaw bones is made and then braces can be applied to straighten his teeth.
  • Before or after you child gets braces, a prosthodontic surgeon may be called upon to replace missing teeth with artificial ones in the form of dentures.

Expert dental care for a child with a cleft lip will not only improve the quality of his eating and drinking, but can also improve his appearance dramatically. As a parent, it is important for you to provide your child with all the emotional and psychological support he needs during these difficult treatments. For more tips and suggestions, contact resources such as Walk In Dental Clinic.