Sometimes children are born with a common birth defect known as a cleft lip or a cleft palate. Clefts simply mean a space that does not close all the way. Sometimes cleft lips or palates occur alone, and in other cases they occur together. If your child was born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate, your pediatrician has probably already spoken to you about corrective surgery. If not, you should talk to him about this as soon as possible. Surgeries to repair the cleft can begin as early as three months, and more than one surgery may be required.
When you meet with the surgeon, make sure you include your pediatric dentist or family dentist in the plan. Correction of cleft lips and palates may cause a need for braces later in life, and if your dentist is aware of the issues, he or she can closely monitor your child.
Consider taking your infant to the dentist a bit earlier than normal if they do have a cleft, so that a relationship can be developed and the dentist can have a memory of the extent of the cleft and the repair to be done prior to working with your child the first time.
While it may seem overwhelming if your child was born with a cleft, do know that these are always repairable. Talk with your healthcare team and know that they are all there to help you, and help your child achieve the best possible outcomes. Include your dentist in the team as you move forward, and they will also be there to help you as you move through this process.
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