A variety of dental problems can be associated with a cleft lip, gum, and palate. Your dentist is a member of a larger team that evaluates the best treatment options for your child. The position, size, shape, and even number of teeth may be affected. Clefting tends to impact the teeth in the area of the cleft more dramatically than in the rest of the mouth. Development of the lateral incisors is often impacted, and it is possible for lateral incisors to be missing.
Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate: Possible Affects on Teeth
Though it occurs less frequently, central incisors located on the same side as the cleft may also be affected. Clefts happen between the lateral incisor and the eye tooth (cuspid). Twinning is the name given when a lateral incisor is present on both sides of the cleft. Teeth may be smaller than average, have altered roots and/or crowns, or their position may be affected. Positioning can cause teeth to erupt where they do not belong. We are proud to be part of a team that cares for children with cleft lip and/or palate in East Brunswick, NJ.
Prevent tooth decay and gum disease with good brushing and flossing habits. Make sure you brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day and floss once. Visit the dentist for regularly scheduled cleanings and check-ups. Your child’s schedule may be unique due to missing, malformed, or malpositioned teeth. It is wise to choose a dentist who has experience treating children with cleft lips/palates.
How early should dental care begin?
Healthy teeth are within reach for children born with a cleft lip and/or palate. As soon as the first baby teeth erupt, clean teeth with a smear of fluoride toothpaste on a washcloth, special finger brush, or soft-bristled toothbrush. If you do not live in an area with fluoridated water, we recommend fluoride treatment to help strengthen enamel and prevent decay. Proper nutrition also plays a role in healthy teeth. We provide our patients, and their parents, with oral hygiene instructions and preventative counseling. Healthy teeth and smiles are why the first dental visit should take place no later than the child’s first birthday.
What about orthodontic care?
Because each child is different, check-up schedules will vary. Children with cleft lips and/or palates may be evaluated before any teeth erupt. This gives the dentist and orthodontist a baseline assessment so they can see how the jaw and teeth grow and develop. Once teeth erupt, it is possible for the care team to make short and long-term goals.
A Team Approach
The surgeon, pediatric dentist, and orthodontist coordinate cleft lip and/or palate treatment, so patients do not have to travel far for quality care. It may be possible to do restorations or extractions at the same time as other reconstructive surgeries. It is the bony defect in the upper jaw that requires the most coordination between team members. For example, an orthodontist may use a dental appliance to prepare the upper jaw for a bone graft that will be performed by a surgeon.
Children as young as six may benefit from retainers or braces to ensure baby teeth align properly since it is the baby teeth that provide the pathway through which adult teeth emerge. Adolescence often calls for another meeting of the minds to determine treatment moving forward. Surgery to correct jaw alignment is not usually done until after the big pubertal growth spurt.
Give us a call at (732) 238-5100to learn more about the team approach to cleft lip and/or palate treatment in East Brunswick.