Clefts are birth defects resulting from the improper formation of the mouth and/or palate, which results in a deep indentation in the malformed area. Both a cleft lip and a cleft palate can also cause dental issues in both the baby and adult teeth. Waiting for those teeth to fall out can often rectify baby teeth issues, but adult teeth will require dental treatment to correct the problem.
Here are a few of the common dental problems related to clefts – and potential treatments you should discuss with your dentist:
Enamel Decay and Cavities
Teeth formed within the cleft area can have weakened enamel due to the more exposed position of those teeth. Weakened enamel can leave the teeth vulnerable to hard-to-remove intrinsic staining and cavity damage.
If the enamel loss is relatively small, your dentist might simply recommend a strict oral healthcare routine utilizing a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride can help strengthen existing enamel but won't cause the damaged enamel to grow back. Minor cavities can be treated with a simple filling.
Moderate to severe enamel damage or cavities might require a dental crown. Your dentist will lightly file the exterior tooth to prepare for bonding. An artificial tooth shell is custom-crafted to fit over your existing tooth to essentially act as the new protective enamel layer.
Teeth erupting into the cleft tend to emerge misaligned. The misalignment of a couple of teeth can then cause the rest of the neighboring teeth to shift out of place, which ends up causing substantial bite issues. These bite issues can include crossbites, over- or underbites, or tooth crowding.
Your dentist will likely refer you to an orthodontist to have a braces program developed. Clear braces might be an option depending on your specific issues. Discuss your options during the orthodontic consultation.
The odd positioning available for erupting teeth in the cleft can cause those teeth to come in misshapen. If the shape is only slightly different from the non-cleft teeth, it might not require any treatment.
Obvious or severe misshapen teeth can be treated through various types of cosmetic dentistry. Two of the most common types are bonding and veneers, which both preserve the interior of the natural tooth.
For bonding, the dentist lightly sands the exterior of the tooth then paints on a composite tooth-colored material that hardens when it dries. The bonded tooth can subtly change the appearance of the existing tooth and is a good choice for moderate shape issues.
Teeth veneers are the best option for severe shape issues. The dentist files the tooth down until only the interior root canal and a small segment of surrounding tooth remain. Artificial tooth caps are then created to go over the existing tooth to greatly change the appearance of the tooth.