Cleft Palate: What You Need To Know To Help Your Child

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By: Anita Ginsburg

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Cleft palate occurs very early in a pregnancy and results in an opening in the roof of the mouth. The cause of cleft palate is unknown, but it could be due to both genetics and environmental factors. Children with cleft palate require special care and monitoring to ensure good dental health.

Complications
A cleft palate may cause complications to a child. The foremost issue is difficulty eating. Food or liquids may enter the nose through the opening in the roof of the mouth. Some children may need to wear a man-made palate to prevent this until corrective surgery is complete. Children with cleft palate are more prone to cavities and may have missing or deformed teeth. A bony upper gum with extra teeth often appears with cleft palate, which can alter the child’s permanent teeth.

Hearing Problems
According to WedbMD, cleft palate can also introduce hearing issues and ear infections into your child’s life. These conditions are caused by fluid build-up in the middle ear. A tube placed in the eardrums to irrigate fluid can prevent this, and regular hearing checkups are very important. If your child begins to experience speech issues that may not be remedied by surgery, visit a speech pathologist to aid the child in eliminating speech issues.

Dental Issues
Children with cleft palate may require a swab instead of a toothbrush in order to effectively clean the mouth. A toothette is a sponge that contains mouthwash on a handle that swabs the teeth. An orthodontist visit should be made before the child grows any teeth to assess any possible damage to the jawline. Many times a child will have to receive corrective surgery once permanent teeth grow in for alignment purposes. A child with cleft palate should also visit a prosthodontist for consultation. The prosthodontist may replace any missing teeth with a dental bridge or use a palatal lift or speech bulb to aid in speech.

Treatment Options
Cleft palate repair often requires a number of surgeries over the course of your child’s early years. It is important that you take your child to a children’s hospital that specializes in cleft palate surgery such as Shriner’s Hospital Cincinnati. The first procedure is typically performed during a child’s first year to create a functional palate. Some children with cleft palate may require a bone graft before 10 years of age in order to support permanent teeth growth.

While cleft palate can be a challenging health condition, there are options available to help correct it. By working with a team of specialists and knowing how to help your children cope, you can be less stressed about the process.