FDI World Dental Federation and Smile Train launch project to improve oral health of children with clefts: the most common birth difference of the face and mouth​

Geneva, 6 September 2019

  • Cleft lip and palate (clefts) are the most common birth difference of the face and mouth.

  • Clefts happen when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during fetal development and impact the development of the mouth, gums, and palate.

  • Even after having cleft surgery, children can be at an increased risk for caries, periodontal disease, and other oral health issues as they grow and develop.

  • Regular and focused dental care should be integrated into the care continuum of children with clefts to help address oral hygiene challenges and prevent oral disease.

Oral health non-profits FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) and Smile Train are joining forces with support from GSK Consumer Healthcare to launch a two-year project to improve oral health guidance and on-going care for children with clefts.

Together, FDI and Smile Train will develop oral health education resources for dentists and other members of the cleft care team. They will also create materials to teach cleft patients and their families about the importance of oral health, raise awareness of the challenges of oral health care beyond cleft surgery, and provide essential oral health instructions.

"Clefts affect 1 in 700 children worldwide," said FDI President Dr Kathryn Kell. "In India alone, we estimate that 100 babies with clefts are born every day, and many of these children do not survive. In the United States, a baby with a cleft is born every 75 minutes. FDI is committed to supporting this vulnerable patient group."

Rehabilitation and care of children with clefts often involves the core specialties of nursing, plastic surgery, paediatric dentistry, speech therapy, and orthodontics. Most of these services are unavailable in low- and middle-income countries, which means that many patients with clefts will never be able to have the comprehensive treatment and care that they need. By empowering local cleft teams with training and resources to provide quality cleft care, Smile Train has been working around the clock to change this situation.

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

"At GSK, we understand the importance of a healthy mouth and good oral health and hygiene for all, including those with specialist conditions such as cleft," said GSK Global Category Lead Oral Health Jayant Singh. "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. This is why we are delighted that FDI have chosen to work with Smile Train on this important two-year project, which could be life-transforming for its beneficiaries, and that GSK is able to fund this work."

About FDI World Dental Federation

FDI is the main representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide, with a vision of leading the world to optimal oral health. Its membership comprises some 200 national member associations and specialist groups in over 130 countries. FDI is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

About Smile Train

Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children's lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive.

To learn more about Smile Train, FDI, and GSK's project launch, visit: smiletrain.org/fdi.

About GSK

GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer. In 2018, GSK Consumer Healthcare announced a five-year partnership with Smile Train to support their surgical work, medical training, outreach, and comprehensive cleft care programmes.

For further information, please visit www.gsk.com/smiletrain

Media Contact:

Charanjit Jagait, FDI Communications and Advocacy Director

Tel: +41 79 796 76 13