Treatment for Cleft Lip and Palate
What Is a Cleft?
An orofacial (or-oh-FAY-shul) cleft is when a baby is born with an opening in the lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). Cleft lip and cleft palate happen is one of the most common birth defects.
Both cleft lip and cleft palate are treatable. Most kids can have surgery to repair them within the first year or two of life.
How Do Clefts Form?
During the first 6 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the bones and tissues of a baby's upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. A cleft happens when parts of the lip and mouth do not completely fuse together.
A cleft lip may just look like a small opening on the edge of the lip, or it could extend into the nose. It may also extend into the gums. A cleft palate can vary in size. It could affect just the soft palate, which is near the back of the throat, or it also could make a hole in the hard palate toward the front of the mouth.
Most clefts fit into one of three categories:
1. cleft lip by itself — most common in boys
2. cleft palate by itself — most common in girls
3. cleft lip and cleft palate together — more common in boys
Usually, cleft lip is found when a baby is born, although some are seen on a prenatal ultrasound. A cleft palate is more difficult to see until the inside of a child's mouth is examined carefully after birth.
A cleft can be on one side of the mouth (unilateral clefting) or on both sides of the mouth (bilateral clefting).
How Much is the Surgery to treat Cleft
Grandville Medical and Laser Center offers the Cleft Surgical treatment Free of Charge to patient(s). We also partner with Smile train to provide this service as part of our contribution to the community
Cleft Surgical Treatment
A cleft lip is usually surgically repaired in the hospital using general anesthesia when a child is 3 to 6 months old. If the cleft lip is wide, special procedures like lip adhesion or a molding plate device might help bring the parts of the lip closer together before the lip is fully repaired. Cleft lip repair usually leaves a small scar on the lip under the nose.
At 9-12 months of age, a cleft palate usually can be repaired. Plastic surgeons connect the muscles of the soft palate and rearrange the tissues to close the cleft. This surgery requires general anesthesia and a short hospital stay for recovery.
The goal of surgery is to create a palate that works well for speech. Some kids, however, will continue to sound nasal after cleft palate repair, and some may develop a nasal voice later on.
More surgeries may be needed as children grow older and their facial structure changes — this can include surgeries like pharyngoplasty, which helps improve speech, or alveolar bone grafts, which help provide stability for permanent teeth. A bone graft closes gaps in the bone or gums near the front teeth and is usually done when kids are between 6 and 10 years old.
As children become teens, they will likely want to (and should) be more involved in their care. They may want to have their scars made less noticeable, improve the appearance of their nose and upper lip, or improve their bite with orthognathic surgery. These operations may improve speech and breathing, overbites/underbites, and appearance.