Cleft palate is a common defect in newborns in which the lip and palate—the roof of the mouth—do not develop correctly in utero. The condition ranges from mild to severe, and if left untreated, can severely affect a child’s ability to eat, drink, and talk. Cleft palate is often accompanied by missing teeth, in which case the services of a prosthodontist might be necessary later in life.
What is a Cleft Palate?
For every 700 babies born in the US, one will be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. This birth defect occurs when the tissues on either side of the lip and the roof of the mouth fail to fuse properly, leaving a gap. The gap can be minor and involve only the lip, or it can involve the facial bones, the nose, and the soft tissues at the back of the mouth. Surgical intervention is necessary to repair these tissues so the baby can develop normally.
For every 700 babies born in the US, one will be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both.
In most cases, surgery is performed as soon as possible so the baby can nurse and not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Children with a cleft grow up with few side effects other than, in the case of cleft lip, a scar where surgery was performed. However, they also might need to have teeth replaced or corrected with orthodontics.
Cleft Palate and Missing Teeth
A common problem associated with cleft palate is missing teeth. In some children, the alveolar ridge, where teeth develop in the gums, is affected. This leads to misplaced, improperly formed, or even absent teeth. If teeth are not present, or if they grow in improperly formed or very out of place, a dental specialist or a prosthodontist can diagnose and correct these problems.
A prosthodontist is a dental specialist who works with artificial teeth. If teeth are missing, this dentist can help provide replacements such as dentures, bridges, or dental implants. Working with a prosthodontist will ensure your teeth are normal and usable even if some were affected by a cleft palate.
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