How does cleft lip/palate affect the teeth?

A cleft of the lip, gum (alveolus), and/or palate in the front of the mouth can produce a variety of dental problems. These may involve the number, size, shape, and position of both the baby teeth and the permanent teeth. The teeth most commonly affected by the clefting process are those in the area of the cleft, primarily the lateral incisors. Clefts occur between the cuspid (eye tooth) and the lateral incisor. In some cases the lateral incisor may be entirely absent. In other cases there may be a “twinning” (twin = two) of the lateral incisor so that one is present on each side of the cleft. In still other cases the incisor, or other teeth, may be present but may be poorly formed with an abnormally shaped crown and/or root. Finally, the teeth in the area of the cleft may be displaced, resulting in their erupting into abnormal positions. Occasionally the central incisors on the cleft side may have some of the same problems as the lateral incisor.

What does this mean for future dental care?

A child with a cleft lip/palate requires the same regular preventive and restorative care as the child without a cleft. However, since children with clefts may have special problems related to missing, malformed, or malpositioned teeth, they require early evaluation by a dentist who is familiar with the needs of the child with a cleft.

  1. Early Dental Care
  2. Orthodontic Care
  3. Coordinated Dental-Surgical Care
  4. Prosthodontic Care

How can I get the best care for my child?

Children with cleft lip and/or palate require the coordinated services of a number of specialists. For this reason many parents seek care for their child at a cleft palate or craniofacial treatment center. At such a center evaluation, treatment planning, and care are provided by an experienced, multidisciplinary team composed of representatives from a variety of dental, medical, and other health care specialties. Even if you do not have such a center locally, the care your child will receive in such a center may be well worth the inconvenience of traveling to another city.