Cleft lip is a developmental or birth defect that can affect the upper or lower lip of a child, which is extremely rare in the lower lip. A cleft lip looks as a narrow opening or split in the front of the upper lip. The opening may extend up to the base of the nose, which generally occurs when the soft tissues in the lip fail to join before birth. Cleft lip is often associated with cleft palate, which is the cleft in the roof of the mouth.
Causes of Cleft Lip:
How a cleft lip forms is still unknown. However, recent studies have revealed that the cause for cleft lip may be genetic or environmental. For example: medications a mother took during pregnancy, along with psychological, emotional and traumatic stresses may be the reason why a baby has a cleft lip.
Dental Care for Cleft Lip:
Children with cleft lip may suffer from frequent ear infections, eating and speech problems and many dental issues. A cleft lip interferes with the number and alignment of the primary and permanent teeth.
Special dental care is needed for children with cleft lip. Early evaluation of the problem by a dentist is needed as the child presents with various dental problems like irregular positioning of teeth, missing lateral incisors, etc. A periodontist can help in giving oral hygiene instructions and parent counseling. It is better to consult the dentist before the eruption of teeth as the dentist can evaluate the growth of the facial and jawbones. This helps the dentist to plan the treatment with the child’s dental needs. The dentist can correct the relationship of the mandible to maxilla at an early stage if the upper and lower teeth do not fit properly.
Seeking a Specialist for a Cleft Lip:
The coordination of different dental and medical specialties is needed for the correction of cleft lip. The surgical correction of cleft lip requires the service of both general and dental surgeon as the procedure is done under anesthesia. Many dental procedures such as tooth extractions, restorations, etc can be performed under the same anesthesia. The coordinated performance of a dental surgeon and orthodontist is necessary to correct any bony defect in the maxilla that would have been raised by the cleft. The cleft lip reconstruction may also require bone graft. An orthodontist place an appliance on the upper jaw, while bone graft and a retainer are used until dental braces are fixed. An evaluation is necessary after the child reaches adolescence. And a combined procedure of orthodontist and surgeon is needed again if the jaws are still not gown in the correct position.
A prosthodontic surgeon is the person who constructs artificial dentures in order to replace the missing teeth. After the correction of the cleft lip, a prosthodontist can improve the functions of eating and speaking by placing a partial denture. Apart from all these specialties, the support of the parents is important for the psychological and social development of a child with a cleft lip.