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FDI World Dental Federation and Smile Train have launched a project to address the oral health challenges of children with clefts. (Photograph: Chaikom/Shutterstock)

Children with clefts to receive improved oral healthcare

By Dental Tribune International
September 13, 2019

GENEVA, Switzerland/NEW YORK, US: Orofacial clefts are the most common birth defects in the US. Children with orofacial clefts can be at an increased risk of caries, periodontal disease and other oral health issues even after undergoing surgery. FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) and Smile Train are working to address the issue and have recently launched a two-year project to improve oral healthcare guidance and treatment for children with clefts.

The project is funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare and is aimed at developing oral health education resources for dentists and other healthcare professionals. The project team will create educational materials for cleft patients and their families, raise awareness of the oral healthcare challenges that may occur after the cleft surgery, and provide oral healthcare instructions.

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

Postoperative care for patients with clefts may require various specialists who have thorough knowledge in nursing, plastic surgery, paediatric dentistry, speech therapy and orthodontics. As most of these services are unavailable in low- and middle-income countries, many patients with clefts are unable to receive the required comprehensive treatment and care.

“We aim to highlight the important role of dentists within the cleft care team,” said Susannah Schaefer, President and CEO at Smile Train. “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.”

“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,” said Jayant Singh, Head of Global Oral and Skin Health at GSK Consumer Healthcare.

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