Cleft Lip & Palate Repair

This section is dedicated to the latest information on oral health topics, culled from authoritative sources such as the American Dental Association.

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Heart Disease

Poor dental hygiene can cause a host of problems outside your mouth-including your heart. Medical research has uncovered a definitive link between heart disease and certain kinds of oral infections such as periodontal disease. Some have even suggested that gum disease may be as dangerous as or more dangerous than other factors such as tobacco use. A condition called chronic periodontitis, or persistent gum disease, has been linked to cardiovascular problems by medical researchers.

In short, infections and harmful bacteria in your mouth can spread through the bloodstream to your liver, which produces harmful proteins that can lead to systemic cardiac problems. That's why it is critical to practice good oral hygiene to keep infections at bay-this includes a daily regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing.


Antibiotic Prophylaxis

In some cases, patients with compromised immune systems or who fear an infection from a dental procedure may take antibiotics before visiting the dentist.

It is possible for bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream during a dental procedure in which tissues are cut or bleeding occurs. A healthy immune system will normally fight such bacteria before they result in an infection. However, certain cardiovascular conditions in patients with weakened hearts could be at risk for an infection or heart muscle inflammation (bacterial endocarditis) resulting from a dental procedure.

Patients with heart conditions (including weakened heart valves) are strongly advised to inform our office before undergoing any dental procedure. The proper antibiotic will prevent any unnecessary complications.


Dentistry Health Care That Works: Tobacco

The American Dental Association has long been a leader in the battle against tobacco-related disease, working to educate the public about the dangers inherent in tobacco use and encouraging dentists to help their patients break the cycle of addiction. The Association has continually strengthened and updated its tobacco policies as new scientific information has become available.

Smoking and Implants

Recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue and bones loss and smoking. Tooth loss and edentulism are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition, people who smoke are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease.

The formation of deep mucosal pockets with inflammation of the peri-implant mucosa around dental implants is called peri-implantitis. Smokers treated with dental implants have a greater risk of developing peri-implantitis. This condition can lead to increased resorption of peri-implant bone. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can lead to implant failure. In a recent international study, smokers showed a higher score in bleeding index with greater peri-implant pocket depth and radiographically discernible bone resorption around the implant, particularly in the maxilla.

Many studies have shown that smoking can lead to higher rates of dental implant failure. In general, smoking cessation usually leads to improved periodontal health and a patient’s chance for successful implant acceptance.


External Links

Cleft lip and cleft palate.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.

Follow-Up Treatment

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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