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Cleft Palate and Your Child's Teeth

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How does a cleft palate affect your child's oral health? What can you do to take care of their smile? This common birth defect can be a cause of concern for parents, but with the help of a team of specialists, including a great dentist, your child can have a healthy, beautiful smile.

What Is a Cleft?

Clefts are common birth defects. Some children are born with an opening in the lip, which is not as serious as a cleft palate, and others have an opening in both the lip and palate.

During the first few weeks of pregnancy, this defect can develop if the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth or the lip does not join correctly. The baby is then born with an opening between the roof of the mouth and the floor of the nose or a slit in the lip.

While the cause is still unclear, the CDC has reported that certain factors can increase the risk. Women who smoke during pregnancy and women who have been diagnosed with diabetes before becoming pregnant have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft. It is believed that maternal diet and medication use as well as environmental exposure may play a role. This defect does tend to run in families.

How Are Teeth Affected?

According to the Cleft Palate Foundation, a defect can lead to dental issues affecting both baby and adult teeth. The positioning, size, shape, and number of teeth can be a problem. With good dental care, however, a child born with this birth defect can still have a healthy smile.

One of the first things that parents can do is schedule an early first dental appointment. Talk to your child's dentist about when to make that first appointment. With a cleft you may be told to bring your child in for a check-up well before the first birthday. An early visit is essential for recognizing potential issues and for monitoring your child's oral health.

Excellent dental care habits can also help to ensure a future of healthy teeth. Start brushing early and make sure your child's diet is filled with nutrient-rich foods. Your child's dentist can talk to you about the best ways to care for early teeth, including brushing technique, fluoride use, and proper nutrition.

A cleft palate is a common birth defect that can be treated. A combination of surgeries and corrective appliances can be used to address cosmetic and health issues associated with clefts. As a parent there is a lot that you can do for your child's smile, such as having a dentist and other specialists monitor your child from a young age, practicing great oral care habits, and making sure your child eats a nutritious diet.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.