Monica Dominguez, the director of global oral health programs at Smile Train, shares why cleft palate is a serious medical condition that must be addressed in a timely manner.
Director of Global Oral Health Programs, Smile Train
“Timely, effective, and high-quality surgery to treat a cleft lip or palate is crucial.”
How does a cleft palate affect your oral health?
Cleft lip and palate affects the shape, position, and functions of different structures in the mouth. If you’re cleft-affected, your teeth are weaker in structure and more likely to develop cavities. Cleft lip and palate patients commonly struggle to breathe through the nose and develop oral breathing, which creates an oral environment prone to gum disease and cavities.
The malposition of the teeth makes it harder for a person with cleft to execute proper cleaning. In addition, babies born with clefts have to address many challenges regarding feeding, nutrition, surgery, and hearing. These concerns are usually the priority while oral health is typically neglected until it becomes a problem.
How important is it for someone born with a cleft to get surgery to treat their cleft?
Timely, effective, and high-quality surgery to treat a cleft lip or palate is crucial. It will help a patient’s lips and mouth function properly, and lowers the risk of certain health conditions. If left untreated, babies born with clefts can have difficulty with feeding, which can lead to malnutrition or even starvation. Repeated ear infections can occur, and dental development can be impacted.
Cleft-affected patients will likely experience complications related to speech and language development. Surgery might be the most-known treatment for cleft lip and palate, but a comprehensive approach is necessary to make sure oral health, speech, nutrition, psychosocial issues, orthodontics, and audiology are addressed.
How can someone empower their community to have good oral hygiene?
One of the most significant causes of oral diseases is lack of information and education. Anyone can be part of the solution by getting educated on the necessary steps to promote good oral health and prevent bad oral health. Oral health professionals and families alike can download educational resources at smiletrain.org/medical-professionals/oral-health.