Restoring Smiles

Body language can speak volumes without a person uttering a single syllable. We can express extreme joy or deep seeded frustrations without a word. Facial expressions go a long way in alerting the world around us to our feelings. However, these expressions may not come as easy to some as they do others.
For instance, children born with a cleft lip or palate may need some assistance in restoring their smile.  As they work through the process they may have to visit more than one doctor including a dental implant specialist.

What is a cleft lip and palate?

According to the Centers for Disease Control cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s mouth and lip do not form properly.  A child may be born with one or both of the conditions. While the exact cause is still being investigated the CDC has determined two factors that increase the risk of cleft lip and palate, a mother with diabetes or one who smokes during pregnancy.

How is it diagnosed?

Unlike some birth defects, cleft lip and cleft palate are can be seen almost immediately after birth. Many times they do not require specialized testing.  Increasingly though the defect is being spotted prior to the baby’s birth using ultrasound.  One advantage of an early diagnosis is that the parents to be will have more time to be trained on how to feed their newborn as children with cleft lip often have special feeding requirements.

Treatment Plan

As with any type of birth defect or other medical emergency it is important to have a treatment plan in place. This will give the patient’s family a road map to follow through the process of care. In terms of families who have children with a cleft palate or cleft lip, the treatment plan includes bone grafting and surgical closure of the openings.
During the bone graft procedure a small amount of bone is taken from another place in the body, usually the hip, and placed in the cleft near the teeth. This is important as the graft will provide stability for the teeth and the front of the mouth. It will also help create a continuous upper gum ridge and provide a more natural appearance.
Once the graft is done it will be time to have the hole surgically closed. This will allow the patient to eat more naturally. Like any surgery, though, there will be time needed for recovery including a restricted diet to allow the wound to heal without irritation.
After all of the surgical procedures, it may be time for one more trip to a doctor’s office. Make sure to visit a dental implant specialist who will be able to replace any missing teeth the patient may have.

Operation Smile

The goal of Operation Smile is just that: to help create smiles for children and their parents. One condition that the charity focuses on is cleft lip and palate. The organization provides free surgeries and treatment for patients that may not otherwise have access to them. The organization often receives help from students and corporations who participate in a variety of fundraising activities.
Restoring a child’s smile can give them confidence not only in the present, but in the future as well. The process may take time, but the results in the end will be worth it.

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Mike is a dentisit who enjoys sharing information about his line of work every day.