Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that occur when the two sides of the mouth or lip do not join properly in the middle during development. The result is a cleft or split in the lip, the roof of the mouth, or both. A cleft lip can make eating and speaking difficult, and a cleft palate is even more serious: the opening in the roof of the mouth leads into the nasal cavity, making it impossible to eat or speak normally without special bottles and devices. Children who suffer from cleft lip and palate can also suffer from ear infections, hearing problems, and dental issues that require frequent checkups and treatment to prevent additional complications.
Treatment for Cleft Lip and Palate
Usually, a treatment plan for cleft palate or lip involves a team of different dental and medical professionals, including an oral surgeon, a speech therapist, an ear specialist like an otolaryngologist, an orthodontist, and potentially other specialists, depending on the severity of the condition.
In most cases, multiple procedures will be necessary throughout a child’s development to fully correct a cleft palate or lip. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is usually called upon to perform most of these procedures because they receive specialized training to understand how to restore the balance of the oral and facial structures. Oral surgeons are also trained to understand pediatric cases, accounting for the future growth of a child’s facial structures when repairing the cleft and restoring the appearance the face.
Surgical Phase of Treatment
In cases of a cleft lip only, the initial surgery usually takes place when the baby is about three months old or less. Cleft palate cases tend to be more complicated, requiring more procedures. The first surgery usually takes place when the baby is 6–12 months old. Another procedure may be necessary around age eight to prepare the facial bones to support the permanent adult teeth. More surgeries may be necessary at this point to restore the appearance or function of the facial features, depending on the extent of the condition.
In general, the goals of cleft palate surgeries are to close the gap in the hard palate and restore function to the facial muscles.
Cleft Lip and Palate Repair at Siouxland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Denis Miller, DDS, MBA, Louis George, DMD, and Jason Leet, DDS, are oral and maxillofacial surgeons who are trained and experienced at performing pediatric procedures. We use advanced 3D scanning equipment to get the best view of the facial structures when forming a treatment plan. Our staff understands how cleft lip and palate can affect a child’s quality of life, and we will do whatever we can to help treat the condition and support the family throughout the treatment process. Contact one of our offices today to learn more about cleft lip and palate treatments.