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Impact of Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip on Dental Health

Child with a cleft lipCleft lips and palates are birth defects of the mouth and lips. In the United States, as many as 6,800 children a year are born with cleft lips, cleft palates, or both. These birth defects occur early in pregnancy when the sides of the lips and the roof of the mouth do not properly fuse. It’s possible to have both a cleft lip and a cleft palate together. The most common problem associated with cleft lips and palates is attempting to feed your child.

  • Cleft Lip – These occur when the lips aren’t properly formed. The degree of the cleft can vary from a mild notch in the lip to a large opening that extends up through the nose.
  • Cleft Palate – Cleft palates occur when the roof of the mouth hasn’t closed all the way, creating an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity. Cleft palates can also extend from the front of the mouth all the way to the throat.

Complications of Clefts

Clefts can cause problems outside of appearance. These can include:

  • Language and speech delays – Because of the deformity of the lips and the opening in the palate, it may be difficult to use the muscles needed to speak. This may cause language delays or a lisp.
  • Feeding problems – Cleft palates make it more difficult for infants to latch, meaning that he or she cannot suck properly to get sustenance.
  • Ear infections and hearing loss – If a cleft palate extends to the throat, children may experience chronic ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss.
  • Dental disease – Lastly, clefts can cause varying dental problems. Teeth may not erupt properly or maybe in the wrong positions, incorrectly shaped, or missing completely. Orthodontic treatment is usually necessary for those with cleft palates.

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

If you have a cleft and are in search of a compassionate, understanding, and well-trained dentist, please contact Meadows Family Dentistry to make an appointment with Dr. Preston Polson. Our office is located here in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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