3 Ways That Cleft Lip And Palate Affects Your Child's Oral Health

Dentist Articles

Cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth defects in the world, including in the United States. Babies with this condition are born with an opening in their top lips which may extend into their nose or gums. This opening may also extend to the palate—the roof of the mouth—resulting in cleft palate. Cleft lip and palate can lead to a number of oral health complications for children. Here are three ways that cleft lip and palate affects your child's oral health.

Missing Teeth

It's common for children with cleft lip or palate to have congenitally missing teeth. Usually, the lateral incisor is missing. The lateral incisor is the tooth in between the front tooth and the canine. This tooth tends to be affected because the cleft passes through the area where it would otherwise be. If your child has bilateral cleft lip, meaning that they have openings on both sides of their mouth, they may be missing both of their lateral incisors.

Missing teeth are a cosmetic problem, but they can also cause dental issues. When all of the teeth are present, each tooth is prevented from drifting by the adjacent teeth. When a tooth is missing, the nearby teeth are able to drift out of place, which can lead to crowded or crooked teeth. Teeth that are crowded or crooked may not come together properly when your child bites, which can make eating difficult.

Your child may need orthodontic treatment such as braces to move their teeth into the proper position. An artificial tooth can be attached to the wire of their braces to temporarily replace their lateral incisor. Once their braces are removed, a retainer with an artificial tooth can be used to prevent the teeth from drifting. Later, a dental implant can be placed to permanently replace the missing tooth.

Malformed Teeth

Cleft lip and palate has been associated with tooth malformations, including taurodontism. Taurodontism refers to teeth that have larger-than-normal pulp chambers and very short roots. These oversized pulp chambers are a concern because the pulps are closer to the surface of the tooth than they should be; this means that they can be reached by tooth decay more easily. Small cavities that could be repaired with fillings in other children may necessitate root canal therapy in children with taurodontism. The short roots are also a concern because the roots anchor the teeth in place. With very short roots, the teeth are less stable than they should be and can be displaced.

Dentists try to leave natural teeth in place whenever possible, so your child's malformed teeth won't be extracted. Their dentist will need to carefully monitor their teeth so that small cavities can be caught early, before they can damage the oversized pulp. Injuries to the teeth will also need to be investigated promptly to ensure that the short roots aren't damaged.

More Cavities

Children with cleft lip and palate have a greater risk of developing cavities than other children. This is the case for a few different reasons.

First, children with this condition frequently have weak or defective areas on their enamel, and these weak spots are the perfect places for cavities to begin. Second, children with cleft lip and palate may have crowded or crooked teeth, and teeth that aren't straight are harder to brush properly. It can also be harder to maneuver floss between tightly crowded teeth, which allows plaque to remain in place. Finally, the saliva of affected children can also be thicker than it should be, and this too-thick saliva is less able to wash plaque and food particles off of their teeth.

To help your child prevent cavities, take them to an orthodontist like Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics to have their crooked or crowded teeth corrected. This will make it easier for them to keep their teeth clean. Regular visits to the dentist for professional cleanings are also essential; the dentist will scrape away decay-causing plaque before cavities can form. Their dentist can also repair weak patches of their enamel with dental bonding to make it harder for decay to form.

If your child was born with cleft lip and palate, they are at risk of a number of oral health conditions and should be seen by a dentist regularly.


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