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Main Content How Your Child’s Cleft Lip or Palate Can Impact His or Her Oral Health

Cleft lip diagramCleft lips and palates are birth defects affecting the mouth and lips. In the U.S., around 6,800 babies a year are born with cleft palates, lips, or both. Clefts occur when the roof of the mouth or the sides of the lips don’t properly form. A child can be born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or even both.

  • Cleft Lips – Cleft lips occur when the lips aren’t properly formed during fetal development. The degree of your child’s cleft can vary from a small notch in the lip to a large opening from the lip into the nostril.
  • Cleft Palates – Cleft palates occur when the roof of a child’s mouth doesn’t close all the way, leaving an opening can that can extend all the way into the nasal cavity. Cleft palates can involve either side of the palate and may extend into the throat as well.

Complications of Cleft Lips and Palates

Aside from appearance, clefts can cause other complications including the following:

  • Feeding Problems – This is the most common problem with clefts, especially cleft palates. Your baby may have difficulty latching or sucking from a bottle.
  • Ear Infections and Hearing Loss – Ear infections are due to a dysfunction of the tube that connects the middle ear to the throat. If a cleft palate extends to the throat, your child may experience chronic ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss.
  • Speech Delays – Because of the clefts, it may be difficult for your child to use the muscles that help with sleep. This may cause a lisp or a speech delay.
  • Dental Problems – Clefts can cause many dental issues. Teeth may not erupt normally, and a cleft can affect the alveolar ridge; the upper gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. Teeth may also be in the wrong position, shaped incorrectly, or missing entirely.

A child with a cleft palate or cleft lip will need a whole team of healthcare providers. These may include an oral or maxillofacial surgeon, an orthodontist, and a pediatric dentist. Here at Firestone Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, we can provide quality dental care for your child. For more information or to make an appointment, please contact our Firestone, Colorado children’s dental office today.

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