Monday, 15 April 2024
Monday, 15 April 2024

Smile Train UK celebrates 15 years of smiles

2021 is a special year for many reasons, but particularly for Smile Train UK because it marks our 15th anniversary as a UK registered charity.

Although our ‘official’ anniversary is not until the month of June, we have decided to celebrate this magnificent milestone all year long by theming our monthly columns for Charity Today with the number ‘15’.

These columns will showcase 15 years of wonderful work by our local medical partners around the world, the impact of their work on the children we support, and the incredible UK-based fundraisers, supporters, and donors who have helped to make this happen!

For those who are not already familiar with Smile Train UK and the work that we do – we are a children’s charity that empowers local medical professionals to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive care to babies born with clefts globally.   

Sadly, given that 540 babies are born with clefts each day and many of them lack access to life-saving treatment, cleft continues to be a global issue. Our vision is to create a world where everyone has access to safe, high-quality comprehensive cleft care and can live a full and healthy life.

We appreciate that many people reading this column may not be overly familiar with clefts, as many babies born with a cleft here in the UK are treated immediately and for free on the NHS. So, to kick off our ‘theme of 15’ columns for 2021, we have decided to share and define 15 keywords you should know when it comes to clefts:

  1. Cleft – a cleft is a gap or slit in the mouth that is present from birth. It forms when part of a baby’s lip and/or mouth do not fuse together properly during his or her development in the womb.
  2. Cleft lip – a cleft lip ranges from a little notch to a complete separation of the upper lip, which can extend up and into the nose.
  3. Unilateral cleft lip – a unilateral cleft lip affects one side of the mouth.
  4. Bilateral cleft lip – a bilateral cleft lip affects both sides of the mouth.
  5. Complete & incomplete cleft lip – a complete cleft lip extends all the way up into the nose. An incomplete cleft lip does not extend into the nose.
  6. Cleft palate – a cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth.
  7. Soft palate & hard palate – the back of the palate (near the throat) is called the soft palate, and the front (near the lips) is called the hard palate. A cleft palate can affect both.
  8. Mandible – occasionally a baby with a cleft palate may have an underdeveloped mandible (or lower jaw) which could lead to difficulties with breathing.
  9. Maxilla alternatively, a baby with a cleft palate may have an underdeveloped maxilla (or upper jaw), which can lead to issues with tooth development, difficulty chewing, and oral health challenges.
  10. Glue ear – a symptom sometimes caused by cleft, where the empty middle part of the ear canal fills up with fluid. This can cause temporary hearing loss. A doctor should be consulted for the monitoring and treatment of glue ear. 
  11. Cheiloplasty/Primary Cleft Lip Repairthis is the first surgical procedure to treat cleft lip, and it involves stitching the separated sides of the cleft lip together. This is carried out under general anaesthesia. Additional surgeries may be required.
  12. Palatoplasty/Cleft Palate Repair – this is a surgical procedure to treat cleft palate by rearranging the muscles and lining of the palate and closing the gap in the roof of the mouth.
  13. Speech and language therapy (SLT) – cleft palate can affect speech development, and often children and adults can have trouble speaking clearly even after cleft surgery. For these individuals, SLT provides life-changing treatment and support.
  14. Orthodontic treatment – if a cleft involves the gum area, it’s common for the teeth on either side of the cleft to be out of position or tilted. Orthodontic treatment improves the alignment and appearance of teeth.
  15. Craniofacial – this is a medical term relating to the bones of the skull and face. ‘Craniofacial abnormalities’ is often used when describing birth differences such as cleft, although, at Smile Train UK, we prefer to say ‘craniofacial differences’. 

Our next post will share 15 key facts about Smile Train UK and the work that we do – so stay tuned for February’s column.   

In the meantime, to find out more about Smile Train UK, please visit:


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