It has been said that it’s easier to smile than frown, although the saying goes based off the number of muscles we use to make these facial expressions, it’s still debatable to some on which is actually easier. Did you know that smiling is our very first facial expression? Babies learn to smile while even in the womb! Smiling is a recognizable language across the globe, and it’s a non-verbal cue in letting others know exactly how we are feeling. A smile is a representation of our innermost thoughts and feelings that get packaged up and sent to our lips for all of those nearby to see what our hearts and mind are delivering to the recipient. Not only is smiling contagious it’s good for us too! Smiling helps maintain our bodies overall health. It boosts our immune system, mood, and even lowers blood pressure!
Did you know a smile can be detected from over 300 feet away? How much does a smile make a person seem more approachable to you? It’s pretty safe to say that our smiles have a considerable impact not only on ourselves but everyone around us. So regardless of the muscles required, wouldn’t it seem that everyone is deserving of a full functioning beautiful smile?
Now imagine your smile looked different from others, that parts of your lips and tissue were not correctly formed. That your palate or lip never fused as they should have and you aren’t able to fully close them due to its wide opening, would you be happy and confident to show off your smile?
Unfortunately, some babies will be born with the latter. One in approximately 700 babies will be born without the full functionality of their lips and or palate to create that smile we are most accustomed to and instead will be born with a cleft. Cleft lip and palate is the most common congenital facial anomaly occurs at about 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. Cleft can be seen on an ultrasound for those living in regions with access to prenatal care at approximately 20 weeks. For those living in areas where medical care is limited or scarcely available, they usually won’t know their child has cleft until birth. The good news is cleft lip and palate is a highly successful and treatable condition, however, in nations where families don’t have the resources to pay for these surgeries, it can leave a child untreated for years, maybe even life. Cleft lip and palate is not considered cosmetic surgery as it can be problematic if left untreated. Cleft doesn’t cause pain to the child, however depending on the spectrum of cleft the child is born with, it can affect various functions; hearing, breathing, speech and depending on the severity of the cleft it can even change the way babies feed.
Luckily, there are many resources to parents of babies born with a cleft in the US; however, this may not always be the case in other developing areas of the world. Thanks to Smile Train, a non-profit international charity based in New York, and to the generous donations from Cherna Moskowitz of The Irvine I. Moskowitz Foundation located in Hawaiian Gardens, Smile Train ensures that children born with cleft have a better opportunity to get the much-needed surgery they may not have been able to afford otherwise. Recently Cherna donated $20,125 to Smile Train. Her husband, the late Irvine Moskowitz, once a doctor himself knew of the fantastic work put in by this organization. Donations of this caliber will help 80 children receive the surgery that they need. 80 children! That’s something everyone can smile about! Contributions such as the ones Cherna Moskowitz donated helps assist children not only here at home but across the globe. The Smile Train has a straightforward model known as “teach a man to fish”. Its goals are straight forward and streamlined. They provide local doctors with the funding and resources needed to train other doctors who then go on and teach other doctors worldwide. Smile Train has doctors in over 85 countries that can perform cleft surgery at zero cost to the patient’s family! Since Smile Train’s opening in 1999 and alongside the on-going help of its volunteers and the generous donations it’s received they have conducted over one million cleft surgeries! They have over 1,100 partner hospitals and over 2,100 medically trained cleft professionals. A donation of just $250 covers the cost of one operation that will provide a child a forever smile. No child deserves to feel different, and all children deserve a beautiful smile. Smile Train is an organization to celebrate! For more information on the Smile Train or how to get involved, visit smiletrain.org.