Van der Woude syndrome: dentofacial features and implications for clinical practice


Professor Grant Townsend
School of Dentistry
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005


Background:  Van der Woude syndrome (VWS) is the most common clefting syndrome in humans. It is characterized by the association of congenital lower lip fistulae with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. VWS individuals have a high prevalence of hypodontia. Although caused by a single gene mutation, VWS has variable phenotypic expression. This study aimed to describe the range of clinical presentations in 22 individuals with VWS to facilitate its diagnosis.

Methods:  A retrospective study of 22 patients with a diagnosis of VWS was undertaken at the Australian Craniofacial Unit (ACFU) in Adelaide. Three extended families with affected members were included in the study cohort.

Results:  The overall prevalence of lip pits in this study cohort was 86%. Cleft phenotypes included bilateral cleft lip and palate (32%); unilateral cleft lip and palate (32%); submucous cleft palate (23%); and isolated cleft hard and soft palate (9%). Missing permanent teeth were reported in 86% of affected individuals.

Conclusions:  Submucous cleft palate in VWS may go undiagnosed if the lower lip pits are not detected. Associated hypodontia and resultant malocclusions will also require management by a dental team.