The FDI World Dental Federation has teamed up with oral health nonprofit Smile Train to integrate regular and focused dental care into the treatment and care plan of children with clefts to help address oral hygiene challenges and prevent oral disease.
Globally, FDI said, one in 700 children are born with a cleft lip and/or palate. A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during embryonic development. In many cases, the cause of the cleft lip and/or palate is unknown.
Clefts cause significant difficulties in eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking, FDI said. Also, cleft patients suffer from tooth decay, gingivitis, and other oral diseases. Many children with clefts never receive the reconstructive surgery they need, FDI added.
Smile Train provides training, equipment, and access to cutting-edge technology to ensure comprehensive cleft care services around the world, including essential treatment beyond cleft surgery, such as nutrition services, orthodontic and general dental care, speech therapy, and emotional support, FDI said.
FDI intends to work with Smile Train to integrate regular and focused dental care into the treatment and care plan of children with clefts to help address oral hygiene challenges and prevent oral disease.
Michael David Contreras of Bogota, Colombia, was born with a cleft lip and palate. He had his first lip surgery at the age of three months and palate surgery when he was 12 months old. When he was 10 years old, he had an alveolar bone graft operation and some aesthetic corrections to improve his previous scars.
As both a cleft patient and a partially dentate patient, he also received full orthodontic treatment.
“I had plenty of support from my parents and they were always very optimistic about my future. They never once doubted that I could do anything I wanted when I grew up,” he said.
“Despite that, my life wasn’t easy, and I was often made fun of because of my scar and my speech, and people constantly asked me about it, which made me feel different,” he said.
FISULAB, a foundation based in Bogota and supported by Smile Train, strives to improve the quality of life of patients with cleft lip and palate through comprehensive rehabilitation services. FISULAB also is responsible for Contreras’ surgery.
“FISULAB means everything to me because it’s allowed me to have a good life and pursue my dreams. I’m so thankful, and their work is important for so many people. Not just for the surgery, but also because they help us have confidence in ourselves and not feel discriminated against,” he said.
“I can’t even imagine what life would be like for someone who doesn’t have access to this treatment and the psychological support,” he said.
In addition to surgery and speech therapy, Contreras received mental health counseling and orthodontic care. He said that the orthodontic care also vastly improved his self-esteem and his overall health.
Furthermore, Contreras said that the cleft lip and palate surgery improved his physical and mental well-being and continues to contribute to his development as a person, especially in how he navigates his daily life.
FDI and Smile Train are now finalizing a set of guidelines for oral health professionals and the wider cleft care team to refer to when caring for patients with clefts. The guidelines focus on maintaining optimal oral health for these patients.
The guidelines will be discussed in detail with FDI and Smile Train experts during the Oral Health in Comprehensive Cleft Care webinar on September 29, 2002, at 3 pm BST. Webinar registration is free and open to all.
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