Your Child’s Teeth: Challenges of Cleft Palate
Children born with cleft palate have quite a few challenges, including their teeth. Your child’s teeth may not be your first priority, but it is one that can affect future development. Educate yourself on what to expect and how to help your child maintain good oral hygiene.
Understanding Cleft Palate
Around 2,651 babies annually are born with a cleft palate. A cleft is an opening in the roof of the mouth. In some cases, babies may also have an opening in the lip. The cleft occurs when the lip or mouth doesn’t correctly form in the early weeks of pregnancy.
No one knows the exact cause of cleft palate, but there seem to be links to the mother’s diet, as well as medication. There may also be a genetic link.
How Clefts Affect Teeth
Your child will need extra dental care to ensure his teeth come through properly. The cleft palate can affect the position and the shape of the baby’s teeth, as well as how many will grow. Often, teeth do not appear in the cleft area, or you may see two of the same tooth, one on each side of the cleft. Your little one will still be able to enjoy a full smile.
You should take your child to a dentist fairly early. It’s usually recommended that children with cleft palate see a dentist before their first birthday. Early intervention can help create a healthier smile. The baby’s first visit will let your dentist assess jaw position and growth.
Consider talking to an Invisalign dentist if you have an older child. Since teeth can come in very crooked, you will need to consider straightening them. Crooked teeth are difficult to clean and can result in more cavities over time. Your child’s orthodontist will likely have a plan in mind for handling issues with your child’s teeth. An orthodontist will also help form a long term plan for handling your child’s dental needs.
As with any child, oral hygiene begins early. You can begin before the teeth erupt by wiping the baby’s gums with a damp cloth. Switch to a soft bristled toothbrush as soon as the first teeth appear. Your dentist can give you more specific instructions if necessary.
Every child is different. Some will have minor clefts that don’t affect tooth development much at all. Other children will have far more severe clefts and may suffer from quite a few dental issues. There is no one solution for every child. You will need to discuss your child’s particular needs with your dentist.
A cleft palate can cause teeth to come in crookedly or it may prevent them from growing at all. Having an early consultation with a dentist and an orthodontist is important to ensure that your little one can have the best smile possible. It’s not uncommon for children with clefts to require some dental surgery, particularly where the teeth have been disturbed by the cleft. Good oral hygiene is also an important part of ensuring a healthy mouth.
Marissa Mayer is a pediatric dentist who has been in practice for several years. When she has time, she likes to help others by posting online.
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