Cleft Lip & Palate Repair
Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
Air abrasion - is a drill-less technique that is being used by some dentists to remove tooth decay and for other applications
Amalgam - Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.
Anesthesia - Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth - Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch - The upper or lower jaw.
Baby bottle tooth decay - Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
Bicuspids -Back teeth used for chewing.
Bitewings - X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding - Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge - A fixed or removable appliance that replaces lost teeth.
Bruxism - Teeth grinding.
CAD/CAM dentistry, (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in dentistry), is an area of dentistry utilizing CAD/CAM technologies to produce different types of dental restorations, including crowns, crownlays, veneers, inlays and onlays, fixed bridges, dental implant restorations and orthodontic appliances.
Calculus (tartar)- Calculus is hardened plaque (a sticky substance) that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.
Canines - Also called cuspids.
Canker sore - One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.
Caries - Another term for decay, which causes cavities.
Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.
Composite filling - Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.
Composite resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown - An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth following restoration.
Cusps - The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.
Cuspids - Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.
Dentin - The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture - A removable set of teeth.
Endodontics - A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve.
Fluoride - A naturally occurring substance added to water, toothpastes and some rinses and used for strengthening the tooth's enamel.
Fluorosis - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.
Gingiva - Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis - A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease - An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.
Impacted teeth - A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant - A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor - Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold. fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place.
Intracoronal - situated or made within the crown of a tooth
Laminate veneer - A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.
Malocclusion - Bad bite relationship
Mandible - The lower jaw
Maxilla - The upper jaw
Molar - Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces
Nightguard - Night mouth guards are bite pads that are worn at night as you sleep. There are also used as mouth guards for day use. These guards are made of high-grade plastic and are custom fit to the mouth. This device keeps the upper teeth from grinding with the lower teeth, offering an instant solution to teeth clenching problems.
Neuromuscular Dentistry - Are more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.
Onlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold; fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place. It is designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth by extending to replace a cusp.
Orthodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture - A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.
Palate - Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture - A removable appliance that replaces teeth. Also called a bridge.
Pedodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with children's teeth.
Perio pocket - An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist - A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth - The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque -Plaque is a sticky, colorless, almost invisible film or substance that forms on the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva.
Posterior teeth - The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth - A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis - The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics - The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp - The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.
Radiographs - Diagnostic X-rays essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Receding gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth's enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal - A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing - Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.
Sealant - A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.
Tartar - A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth's surface.
Tooth decay – Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth. This phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods. Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures.Teeth polishing: Removal of stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
TMD - Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.
Veneer - A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.
Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth - Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects, estimated to affect around one in 700-800 babies born in North America. Both problems result from the incomplete formation of anatomical structures (the lips and the palate, or “roof of the mouth”) which develop during early pregnancy. These conditions may occur separately or together, and they can have a wide variation in severity. With proper treatment, however, in most cases the child has an excellent chance of leading a healthy, normal life.
Besides the noticeable irregularity in appearance, a cleft lip or palate can cause difficulties with feeding and speech. Both conditions are also associated with ear infections, hearing loss and dental problems. To fully address these problems, a child may require several surgical procedures, performed at different times. That's why a team approach is often used to treat this complex condition. Members of the medical team may include an oral surgeon, a pediatric dentist, an orthodontist, a plastic surgeon, and other specialists.
In general, the first goal of treatment is to repair or “close” the gap in the lip and/or palate as soon as it is practical for the child — as early as 2 to 9 months of age. Follow-up treatment may be needed to restore the appropriate form and function of the lips, teeth, and jaws (for proper speech, eating, etc) and to correct hearing problems. These procedures may include plastic surgery, orthodontics, orthognathic (jaw) surgery and speech therapy.
Surgical Treatment for Cleft Lip or Palate
Cleft lip or palate surgery is usually performed in a hospital setting, and may be done when an infant is 6 to 12 weeks old. Intravenous sedation or general anesthesia is used, so your child won't experience any pain. In cleft lip surgery, an incision is typically made on each side of the cleft. This creates several “flaps” of tissue, which are then sutured (stitched) together to close the gap. Suture lines are generally planned to follow the facial contours, so that the surgical scar will be as unobtrusive as possible.
Cleft palate treatment involves rebuilding the roof of the mouth, including soft tissue, muscle and bone. The initial surgery is often performed between the ages of 6 and 18 months. Like cleft lip surgery, it relies on specialized “flap” techniques to reposition soft tissues and close the gap. Before or after surgery, your child may need to wear a special appliance such as an obdurator (artificial palate) or a nasal alveolar molding device (NAM), a type of retainer.
Depending on how complex the child's condition is, additional procedures may be required after the initial treatment to fully correct any defects. A child's treatment plan will often include pediatric dental examinations beginning around age one. Bone grafts to repair the hard palate may be recommended at age 8-11 years, when the cuspid teeth are developing. To correct problems with the alignment of teeth, orthodontic care may be needed beginning around age 12. In some situations, orthognathic surgery is recommended to address more severe jaw problems.
Handling a child's cleft lip or palate can be a challenge for caregivers and family members — but it's important to keep in mind that this relatively common birth defect can be successfully treated. Many who have this condition have gone on to become well-known performers, politicians, sports stars… as well as moms and dads, friends and neighbors.
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