How Orofacial Clefts Affect Dental Health

December 12, 2018

Orofacial clefts are one of the most prevalent birth defects in the United States, and they can manifest in multiple ways. A cleft palate occurs when a portion of your child’s mouth does not properly join together in-utero, resulting in an opening in the mouth. This opening is usually near the roof of the mouth, but it can also occur at the back of the mouth.

When your child’s lip does not form properly, this is called a cleft lip. Some children can have both a cleft lip and a cleft palate, while some have only one or the other. If your child has a cleft palate or a cleft lip, one question that you may have is how this will affect their dental care. Keep reading to learn valuable information regarding dental care for children.

1. Cleft Palate Increases the Risk of Dental Problems

The presence of an orofacial cleft increases your child’s chance of experiencing dental issues, even if you help your child exercise correct dental hygiene and visit the dentist regularly. These issues appear for a couple different reasons.

A child with a cleft usually has some type of dental abnormality that accompanies that cleft, such as poor bone support, a smaller-than-normal mouth, and deformations of the roots that hold the teeth in place. Researchers also theorize the children with orofacial clefts also have abnormalities with their salivary glands due to gene mutation that influences both traits.

Usually, the salivary glands produce saliva that acts as a protective layer against bacteria and tooth decay. Children who have these irregular salivary glands produce a different type of saliva that isn’t as effective at protecting the teeth. The saliva may have the wrong consistency, and it usually lacks immune compounds that assist with warding off tooth decay.

Atypical saliva also increases the acidity of the mouth. These factors create an oral environment with excessive bacteria that promotes rapid growth of tooth decay.

2. Dental Health Improves Surgery Results

Doctors recommend surgery for children with orofacial clefts. Unfortunately, many children will require multiple procedures to restore the mouth to its correct structure.

Though the initial cleft lip or palate repair generally occurs before your child is one year old, they might need numerous procedures throughout their childhood and teen years to completely rectify the mouth. When your child is between cleft repair surgeries, keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible. Children with healthier teeth tend to have better results from their surgeries.

3. Proper Dental Management Is Essential

The preferred regiment for children with orofacial clefts varies based on the severity of the cleft and the exact issues caused by the cleft. As a parent, you should learn how you can assist with your child’s dental hygiene. You want to make sure that you aren’t brushing the affected area too hard, as this can cause pain or bleeding.

Take your child to the dentist early and maintain regular dental visits. Your dentist will help formulate a plan to combat problems caused by your child’s cleft. For example, your child might need to use a prescription mouthwash and toothpaste to combat the effects of an overly acidic mouth. Many children need to have teeth surgically removed to prevent overcrowding.

You should also make sure that your dental professionals have experience working with children who have orofacial clefts. Certain areas of the mouth can be abnormally soft, and surgical scarring from cleft procedures can impact the mouth’s mobility.

Not only should your dentist know how to properly manipulate a mouth with cleft issues, but they should also understand how the cleft can impact dental procedures.

Are you or your child overdue for a dental visit? Contact Vanyo Dentistry to schedule an appointment.