Collaboration to Improve Oral Health of Cleft Lip and Palate Patients

Dentistry Today


The FDI World Dental Federation and Smile Train are working with GSK Consumer Healthcare to launch a two-year project to improve oral health guidance and ongoing care for children with cleft lip and palate. 

Together, FDI and Smile Train will develop oral health education resources for dentists and other members of the cleft team. They also will create materials to teach cleft patients and their families about the importance of oral health, raise awareness of the challenges of oral healthcare beyond cleft surgery, and provide essential oral health instructions.

“Clefts affect one in 700 children worldwide,” said FDI president Kathryn Kell, DDS. “In India alone we estimate that 100 babies with clefts are born every day, and many of these children do not survive. In the United States, a baby with a cleft is born every 75 minutes. FDI is committed to supporting this vulnerable patient group.” 

Cleft lip and palate are the most common birth difference of the face and mouth, FDI reports. Even after cleft surgery, children can be at an increased risk for caries, periodontal disease, and other oral health issues as they grow and develop. Regular and focused dental care should be integrated into the care continuum of children with clefts to help address oral hygiene challenges and prevent oral disease, FDI says.

The rehabilitation and care of children with clefts often involves nursing, plastic surgery, pediatric dentistry, speech therapy, and orthodontics. Most of these services are unavailable in low-income and middle-income countries, which means that many patients with clefts will never be able to have the comprehensive treatment and care they need. 

By empowering local cleft teams with training and resources to provide quality cleft care, Smile Train has been working to change this situation, FDI says.

“We aim to highlight the important role of dentists within the cleft care team,” said Smile Train president and CEO Susannah Schaefer. “Regular dental care for children with clefts is essential to help manage their increased risk for oral diseases. It’s important for oral health professionals to guide cleft patients and their families in their oral hygiene and help them maintain healthy mouths and the highest possible quality of life.” 

“At GSK, we understand the importance of a healthy mouth and good oral health and hygiene for all, including those with specialist conditions such as cleft,” said GSK global laboratory lead oral health Jayant Singh.

“Comprehensive cleft care is a key area of focus for our partnership with Smile Train, and the general dental practitioner role is vital in this. This is why we are delighted that FDI have chosen to work with Smile Train on this important two-year project, which could be life-transforming for its beneficiaries, and that GSK is able to fund this work,” said Singh.

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