Providing care and understanding for patients with cleft lip and palate
In dentistry there will always be patients who present certain challenges. Due to the unique formation of their teeth and lips, treatment of patients with cleft lip and palate can seem daunting, and this means that many professionals will refer these individuals instead of treating them directly.
However, whilst this is necessary in some cases, it’s important for dental hygienists and dental therapists to be aware of the care they can provide these individuals, so that referral is not the only option.
Rhiannon Jones, a Lecturer at the University of Cardiff, wants to make sure that dental hygienists and dental therapists understand more about those with cleft lip and palate. At the BSDHT Oral Health Conference 2019 (OHC) she will be giving a lecture entitled, “How much do we know about cleft lip and palate care?” to better illustrate the condition and encourage more sympathetic care.
How common is cleft lip and palate?
Cleft lip and palate are more common than you would imagine. Although no one knows what causes these developmental defects, it’s thought that they will occur in 1 in 700 births. It’s therefore understandable that there should be more focus on how to care for these patients, especially as many of their needs are no different from those with normal dentition and lips.
“Even though current figures suggest that 1 in 700 people are born with a cleft lip and palate, these numbers are on the rise. Dental professionals need to be aware of the particular needs these individuals have so that they can offer them proper care.
“Cleft lip and palate basically happen when the cells don’t fuse together properly as the two sides of the face become one during early development of the foetus. For some reason the cells don’t communicate properly, and this leaves them unable to form a bond.
“The exact cause of cleft lip and palate is unknown, but there are various factors that are thought to influence whether this phenomenon occurs. Alcohol and drug use during pregnancy can increase chances, and there are also certain genetic factors that come into play, such as whether there is a family history of the condition. Despite this, there are still times where there are no discernible reasons for it to occur, and no one knows why it is becoming more widespread either.
“It’s important to remember that cleft lip and palate affects every person differently. There are some cases where you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell someone has had corrective surgery, and others were the defect is far more prominent. Treating these patients doesn’t always come with further complications, and I want professionals to realise this so that they don’t instantly think that referral is the only option. This is why for the first part of my talk I will discuss the different types of cleft lip and palate so that I can encourage better understanding.”
“A lot of the patients I see with cleft lip and palate tell me of past negative experiences with dental care. This isn’t just children, but adults who have been referred as well, and this is something I really want to ensure doesn’t happen anymore. I want to shed light on this condition and encourage sensitivity towards the subject, especially as poor past experiences can be so damaging to these individuals’ self-esteem.
“It’s understandable that professionals may feel unsure of how to proceed with treating these patients, but in a lot of cases they really aren’t any different from other people. Cleft lip and palate only really affect the lip, palate and the upper anterior dentition, and therefore any other work that needs to be done should be standard procedure.
“In my session at the OHC I will share hints and tips such as how to perform restorations on these patients, as well as encourage delegates to interact with the information I’m presenting and look at past case studies. I really want people to go away feeling confident that they can treat these patients, and help them recognise when these individuals can be treated in practice and when referral is necessary.”
Learning your way
Rhiannon Jones is hosting just one of the many informative educational seminars that form the core of this year’s OHC. During this year’s programme, delegates will be able to choose their own educational pathway through a series of parallel sessions, so that they can curate the event to suit their particular interests.
You can find out more about the OHC and register your place by visiting the BSDHT website: http://www.bsdht.org.uk/OHC2019
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