Orthodontist -- An orthodontic evaluation may be scheduled before a child's teeth begin to erupt. One of the primary goals of orthodontic care for children with cleft conditions is to monitor jaw growth and bite problems. Following surgery, an orthodontist may be required to create an orthodontic retainer or dental braces.
Oral surgeon -- Oral surgery may include a variety of coordinated procedures, including a tooth extraction, restorations and palate reconstruction. In some cases, the oral surgeon can reconstruct the palate with a bone graft. After a bone graft, the child may need to wear a retainer and then a full set of braces.
Prosthodontist -- The help of a prosthodontist may be required to create a dental bridge or oral appliance called a "speech bulb" or "palatal lift." These treatments are designed to help a child eat, speak and look better, and are synchronized with the efforts of both the oral surgeon and speech therapist.
Speech pathologist/therapist -- After surgery, a speech pathologist will assess a child's communication skills to help determine what speech exercises are necessary, or whether further surgery is required. Many children who have clefts work with a speech therapist throughout their grade-school years.
Separating Fact From Fiction
Contrary to popular belief, cleft conditions have no relation to mental retardation. However, a learning disability can be present if a cleft palate or cleft lip occurs in conjunction with a group of disorders or a syndrome.
The term harelip is often used to describe a cleft lip. But it is a misnomer and viewed as derogatory by professionals. "Harelip" actually refers to a rabbit, which has a natural indentation on the center of its lip that looks similar to a cleft lip.
If your child was born with a cleft palate, an initial visit to a general or pediatric dentist can get them started on their dental treatment.