Supportive Treatment for a Cleft Lip or Palate
Treatment can help your child develop physically and emotionally. Your child’s health care team will work with you and your child to ensure the best outcome possible. This sheet gives you tips on how to prepare your child for these important treatments.
Dental and Orthodontic Care
Help your child practice good oral (mouth) hygiene. This means making sure your child’s teeth are brushed after every meal and flossed at least once a day. Your child should avoid sweet, sticky foods and juices.
Have your child’s teeth looked at by an orthodontist. Talk to him or her about treatments your child may need in the future, such as braces or implants. This is especially important if your child has a cleft palate that affects the gum. The orthodontist can help improve how your child’s mouth functions and looks.
Be sure your child wears any prescribed spacers or guards as instructed. They help with normal mouth function. Your child will likely need to wear these dental appliances for the rest of his or her life.
Cleft palate that affects the gum often causes teeth to grow in abnormally. Your child will likely need braces to straighten the teeth. Braces can be used to fix baby or adult teeth. Fixing the jaw and replacing missing teeth also may be needed.
Follow up with the pediatric dentist and orthodontist. Your child will need regular mouth care for the rest of his or her life.
Speech Therapy and Swallowing
Your child will likely begin speech therapy before surgery. Therapy will continue after surgery. Once the cleft lip or cleft palate has been repaired, the speech pathologist will help your child relearn where to place the tongue, how to say words, and how to swallow if needed. Expect your child to work with a speech pathologist until your child can speak well. Many children with cleft lip, cleft palate, or both, develop normal speech at about age 6 or 7 years old. But it varies, depending on the child and the severity of the cleft.
Help your child cope with social and emotional issues. Explain to your child that other children tend to react poorly to differences. Reassure your child that he or she has done nothing wrong.
Give your child a lot of positive feedback about his or her appearance. This will boost your child’s self-esteem. Positive messages from loved ones also help your child face other people’s insensitive words and actions.