Posts for: May, 2015
One of the most common and anguish-filled birth defects is a cleft lip or palate (roof of the mouth). Not only do clefts disrupt the normality of a child’s facial appearance, they can also lead to problems with chewing, speech and the long-term health of teeth and gums.
A cleft is a tissue gap that occurs during fetal development, usually in the first trimester, in which parts of the baby’s face fail to unite. Why this occurs is not fully understood, but vitamin imbalances in the mother, exposure to radiation or other toxic environments, or infections are all believed to play a role.
Facial clefts are classified as either incomplete, in which there is some but not full tissue fusion, or complete, with no fusion at all. A cleft can be unilateral, affecting only one side of the face, or bi-lateral, affecting both sides. During infancy a cleft can adversely affect a child’s ability to nurse, and it sometimes disrupts breathing. As the child grows, speech patterns may be severely disrupted and their teeth and bite may not develop properly.
Fortunately, there have been dramatic advances in cleft repair over the past sixty years. It’s actually a process that can span a child’s entire developmental years and involve the expertise of a number of surgical and dental specialists. For a cleft lip, the initial surgical repair to realign and join the separated tissues usually occurs around three to six months of age; repair of a cleft palate (where the gap extends into the roof of the mouth) between 6 and 12 months.
Subsequent procedures may be needed in later years to refine earlier results and to accommodate the mouth’s continuing growth. At some point the treatment focus shifts to cosmetic enhancement (which can include implants, crown or bridgework) and periodontal health, to ensure gum tissues that support teeth and gums aren’t compromised by the effects of the cleft or its treatment.
At the end of this long process, something of a miracle may seem to occur: a young person’s once disfigured mouth transforms into a beautiful smile. It’s a chance for them to gain a normal life — and a new lease on physical, emotional and oral health.
What if you had orthodontic treatments to enhance your smile — and nobody knew about it until it was all done?
That (almost) happened to British singer, cover girl and television personality Cheryl Cole. Since her big break in 2002, on the British reality show Popstars: The Rivals, Cole has had a successful music career, taken turns judging both the British and American versions of The X Factor, and graced the covers of fashion magazines like Elle and Harpers Bazaar.
And somewhere along the way, Cole wore an orthodontic appliance. It very nearly went undetected… until a colleague spilled the beans. That’s when Cole was forced to divulge her secret: For a period of time, she had been wearing clear aligners on her teeth. Until her frenemy’s revelation, only a few people knew — but when you compare the before-and-after pictures, the difference in her smile is clear.
So what exactly are clear aligners? Essentially, they consist of a series of thin plastic trays that are worn over the teeth for 22 hours each day. The trays are custom-made from a computerized model of an individual’s mouth. Each tray is designed to move the teeth a small amount, and each is worn for two weeks before moving on to the next in the series. When the whole series is complete, the teeth will have shifted into their new (and better aligned) positions.
Besides being virtually unnoticeable, aligners are easy to remove. This makes it easy to keep the teeth clean — and can come in handy for important occasions (like cover-photo shoots and acceptance speeches). But don’t remove them too frequently, or they won’t work as planned. If that’s a possibility (with teens, for example), aligners are available with “compliance indicators” to ensure they’re being worn as often as they should be. They can also be made with special tabs to hold a place for teeth that haven’t fully erupted (come in) yet — another feature that’s handy for teens.
So if you need orthodontic work but prefer to stay “under the radar,” ask us whether clear aligners could be right for you. Cheryl Cole did… and the results gave her something more to smile about.
If you would like more information on clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Orthodontic Aligners” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”