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Dental care for a cleft lip and / or palate

Dental problems caused by clefts
Paediatric Dental Department
Orthodontic care
Looking after your child’s mouth
Food and drink advice


Dental problems caused by clefts

A cleft that includes the gums can cause a number of dental problems. Teeth may be missing or there may be extra teeth. Teeth can be different in shape or position, especially around the site of the cleft.

Your child will be seen regularly by a dentist to ensure they get the right treatment if there are any problems.

Paediatric Dental Department

Your child will be seen by a paediatric (children’s) dentist a number of times throughout their life. The first visit often occurs between the age of six months and one year.

Referrals to orthodontic services can be made at an appropriate age if required.

Although you will be seen in the Paediatric Dental Department, it is important that you also attend your own dentist for regular check-ups (usually every six months).

Please download our leaflet on dental care for children with clefts.

Contact details

Paediatric Dental Department
Children’s Hospital

Telephone: 028 9615 6909

Orthodontic care

Orthodontic treatment may be required. If so, it is usually carried out in two stages.

  1. Age 7 to 10 years – braces may be needed for the top teeth. This prepares the mouth for bone grafting.
  2. When adult teeth have grown in the mouth – further treatment likely with braces and occasionally surgery to correct the position of the jaw.

Looking after your child’s mouth

Please download our leaflet on dental care for children with clefts.

  • Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste of 1450ppm concentration.
  • Brush last thing at night and at one other time.
  • Continue to visit your dentist regularly.
Remember when brushing
  • Children aged up to three years should use a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Children aged over three years should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Spit out after brushing and do not rinse with water or mouthwash.
  • If your child is aged seven years or over, consider using a fluoride mouthwash at a different time to brushing.
  • An adult should help brush a child’s teeth until the age of eight and then supervise.
  • If your child is aged 10 years or over, ask your dentist if they are suitable for an extra strength fluoride toothpaste available on prescription.

Helpful videos about brushing are available on the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) website.

Food and drink advice

  • From six months, introduce a free-flowing cup.
  • By one year old, feeding from a bottle should be discouraged.
  • Night-time drinks should be limited to water by one year old.
  • Sugar should not be added to weaning foods.
  • The best drinks are water and milk.
  • Sugary foods, drinks and sweet treats should be limited to meal times.
  • Have one or two healthy, tooth-kind snacks a day.
  • The best snacks for teeth are: bread sticks, rice cakes, pitta bread, low fat cheese, toast and savoury sandwiches.
  • Remember ‘no-added sugar’ diluting juice still contains sugar.
  • Take care with fruit as it contains sugar and acid. Dried fruit is not a good snack for teeth.
  • If your child requires a medicine, it is better to ask for a sugar-free type.