For the most part, cleft palate and cleft lip are a collective concept with which people are generally familiar to one extent or another. The term, cleft, refers to a part of the lip, the gum, as well as the palate depending on context, and the problems that can arise from cleft issues vary somewhat greatly. The variability has to do with the fact that the cleft lip or palate varies just as greatly in its severity. The position, size, shape, and quantity of baby teeth and subsequently permanent teeth can all be negatively impacted by cleft lip or cleft palate. The reality of a cleft deformity is such that it behooves one to address it early before teeth ever emerge, which means many parents comfort their young children of varying ages through the process.
The Effects on Teeth
The main effect as far as teeth are concerned is usually localized to the teeth in the immediate vicinity of the malformed cleft, and typically, these are the lateral incisors. Clefts are observed between the lateral incisor and the cuspid, and sometimes, the former can be completely nonexistent due to the malformed cleft. Alternately, there can sometimes be a process to which some refer as “twinning,” which is the instance in which the lateral incisor doubles or mirrors itself on either side of the cleft, effectually yielding two incisors or a bifurcated one.
There are less common examples of how cleft deformities can affect one’s teeth as well. It is less likely albeit just as valid that one’s incisor or even other teeth might be where they are supposed to be yet not be formed correctly. In many cases, this manifests as an inordinately shaped crown or root or both. The teeth in the vicinity of the cleft can even be displaced sometimes, which causes them to breach the gums at abnormal angles. This sometimes means the central incisors on the cleft side can incur some of the same problems the lateral incisor suffers.
The Pediatric Response
Kids born with cleft lip or cleft palate can still have healthy teeth with proper care, of course. They need the same brushing, flossing, and nutrition that everyone requires, and of course, fluoride treatment wouldn’t hurt. It’s best, though, to see to it that the right kind of brushing begins as soon as teeth become visible, and a soft-bristled toothbrush is recommended for early dental care. Pediatric dentists, in fact, often present to the guardians of children with cleft palates or lips preventative counseling and oral hygiene instructions, and for that matter, your general dentist is as knowledgeable on the subject.
A lot of dentists suggest that one’s first visit to the dentist’s office come around the time the child turns a year old; if there are any extenuating complications, then it is sometimes recommended that a visit be scheduled even earlier. The dental care you receive—the normal, routine procedures that you’re used to—typically don’t start for another two years thereafter. Because of the variability of cleft lips and palates, treatment also varies, and where some children need preventative care, fillings, or the removal of a tooth, all of the needs above differ from patient to patient.
The orthodontist is likely to see your child before he or she has any teeth at all. That is to say the baby would have no teeth; the orthodontist would likely have a rather full and sparkling smile, but that’s neither here nor there. The orthodontist wants to appraise the maturation of the child’s face by studying the jaws for indicators that can aid in the prediction of what kind of bone growth can be expected. The teeth erupt later, and the orthodontist becomes quite likely the person with whom future dental needs in both the near and far future are charted out for the kid’s life like a series of arranged marriages.
Say a kid’s got upper teeth that are just not fitting in their designated spots together in relation to the lower teeth; the orthodontist is the person would probably recommend a preliminary round of treatment to make these adjustments in the short-run and thereby stave the issue. In the longer term, though, the orthodontist sees to the developing alignment of the teeth overall.