Craniofacial Orthodontics

Craniofacial orthodontics is a subspecialty of the field of orthodontics. It focuses on the treatment of birth defects, most commonly cleft lip and cleft palate. To treat craniofacial issues, a coordinated effort from many disciplines is needed, including medical, surgical, and dental/orthodontics. Patients may be treated from birth into their late teens.

What is cleft lip and palate, and how does it occur?

A cleft lip, or orofacial cleft, occurs when a baby is born with an opening in the lip or roof of the mouth (the palate). This happens when, during the beginning of pregnancy (usually in the first six to 10 weeks) when the bones and tissues of the upper jaw, nose, and mouth are fusing together to form the mouth, palate, and upper lip, these pieces do not fuse properly, leaving an opening.

A cleft lip can look like a small opening at the corner of the lip. It can also extend into the nose and into the gums. Cleft palates can vary in size, affecting either only the soft palate near the back of the throat or could create an opening in the hard palate near the front of the mouth.

The exact cause of cleft lip and palate may not always be clear, but some common factors include genetics (from either the mother or father), medications taken during pregnancy, vitamin deficiencies, or smoking, doing drugs, or drinking during pregnancy.

How are clefts treated?

Cleft lip surgery takes place in a hospital under general anesthesia. A team of doctors is usually needed to treat a cleft lip or palate, including a pediatrician, plastic surgeon, oral surgeon, ear, nose, and throat specialist, orthodontist or craniofacial orthopedic specialist, dentist, and other specialties as needed.

Surgery for cleft lip can be performed on a child when they are three to six months old; it should be performed initially before they turn one. The goal of the surgery is both function and appearance. A surgeon will close the separation in the lip by making incisions on both sides of the cleft. These incisions create flaps of tissue that can then be stitched together to create a more “normal”-looking lip. It will also be able to function properly.

Surgery for cleft palate can occur a little later, typically between nine and 12 months, but definitely before 18 months of age. Different procedures may be used, depending on what type of cleft palate the child has. As with cleft lip surgery, incisions will be made on both sides of the cleft. The tissue and muscles will then be repositioned before the incision is stitched closed.

Follow-up surgeries may be necessary to help improve facial appearance or the child’s speech. These surgeries take place later on, as the child grows and his or her facial structure changes.

The Importance of Dental Cleanings

Dentists commonly recommend that you get a professional cleaning twice a year (every six months). But why, exactly, are they such an important part – along with regular brushing and flossing – in maintaining good oral health? Not only does getting a regular cleaning protect your dental health and keep your smile bright, but it can also guard your overall health and even save you money in the long run.

Cavity Prevention

The whitish film that constantly develops on your teeth is called plaque, and it is the number one cause of cavities. The bacteria in plaque are fueled by the sugars in foods that we eat and produce acids that eat away at the teeth enamel. If left untreated, damaged tooth enamel can result in cavities.

Gum Disease Prevention

Plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) can also cause an infection in the gums, known as gum disease. If this is left untreated, the bacteria can burrow deeper into the gums, threatening the underlying bone. This can lead to loose teeth and even tooth loss.

Save Money

Compared to more invasive or more complex dental procedures, routine cleanings are much more affordable. That is why it’s a good idea to get regular cleanings and exams to avoid the need for these more advanced treatments, such as periodontal therapy or the need for dental prosthetics like crowns.

Protect Overall Health

Research has shown that there is a link between dental health and overall health. Conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease can be related to poor oral hygiene, so these conditions could possibly be prevented (or at least have their risk lowered) by taking good care of the teeth. Cleanings include exams and possibly oral cancer screenings. Like with other forms of cancer, early detection is very important to receiving a good prognosis. It is advisable, then, to see the dentist regularly so that he or she can catch the disease in its early stages when it’s easier to treat.

What Are Porcelain Veneers?

Dental veneers are a widely common dentistry treatment that is also widely available. Veneers allow a patient to completely transform their smile with just a couple of visits to a dentist. Porcelain veneers are very attractive to patients who want to improve the look of their teeth quickly and easily.

What are veneers?

Essentially, a dental veneer is an extremely thin shell that is attached to the front of your teeth to change their shape, color, or size permanently. Typically, the shell will be made of porcelain, or ceramic, because this material closely imitates the strength and feel of real teeth. Veneers are typically applied to people who can’t seem to achieve the color of teeth that they want or people who dislike the shape or size of their teeth.

What else are veneers used for?

While porcelain veneers are typically used for cosmetic reasons, to change the appearance of your teeth, they can also be used to correct some other dental issues.

  • Stains that can’t be whitened using other procedures
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Worn down teeth
  • Misaligned or irregularly shaped teeth
  • Gapped teeth

How are veneers applied?

The application of veneers typically takes just two visits to your dentist. In the first visit, they will examine your mouth and take measurements as well as provide you with a consultation to make sure that veneers are the perfect fit for your unique situation. Then, your dentist will prepare your teeth by removing a thin layer of enamel from the front of your teeth to make room for the new permanent veneers. A mold is then taken of your teeth and sent into a lab where your veneers will be uniquely designed and created for you. While you wait, your dentist will provide you with temporary veneers made from the same mold until your beautiful new professional veneers arrive.