What is cleft lip and cleft palate?
Cleft lip and cleft palate are two of the most common major birth defects, occurring in approximately 1 of every 700 births in the United States. This type of facial irregularity occurs during pregnancy when there is not enough tissue present in the mouth or lip area for it to join properly before the baby is born. This condition may be due to genetics or an isolated birth defect.
A cleft lip is easy to see and relatively simple to treat. The goal is to close the opening in the upper lip and restore the child’s ability to eat and speak.
A cleft palate is an opening between the palate (the roof of your mouth) and the floor of the nose.
Cleft lip and/or cleft palate can occur as an isolated event or in conjunction with over 400 different syndromes. It is important that if your child is born with a facial cleft that they are evaluated for other birth defects.
Identifying a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate
Both cleft lip and cleft palate can vary in size, from a narrow opening to a large hole in the roof of the mouth (cleft palate), or a complete split of the upper lip extending to the base of the nose (cleft lip). The diagnosis is frequently made at birth or soon after but is increasingly diagnosed in the prenatal period with the use of ultrasound.
Dr. Warren is available to provide prenatal counseling if your child is diagnosed with a cleft before birth or in the nursery after your baby is born. We are aware that this can be an extremely difficult and confusing time, and we are here to help you in any way possible.
What are the difficulties with a cleft lip or cleft palate?
A cleft lip or palate can cause severe consequences for a child’s ability to speak, breathe, and eat. These difficulties may also result in psychological problems as the child grows up.
What is the treatment plan for cleft lip or cleft palate?
Cleft lip and palate surgery can significantly improve your child’s facial appearance along with their ability to eat, breathe, and speak when the defect can be corrected early on in their childhood.
A cleft lip is a relatively simple surgical procedure to close the gap in the upper lip, usually performed on a baby soon after birth (3–4 months).
Surgery to repair a cleft palate is usually carried out when the child is 12–18 months old.
Bone graft surgery to repair the alveolar portion of the cleft is carried out at age 6–11, and usually precedes the eruption of the permanent canine teeth. It may be necessary and appropriate for the child to undergo orthodontics (braces) before this procedure.
Children with cleft lips and/or palates often require multiple surgeries following their initial repair. These can include scar revisions, pharyngeal flaps (to aid in speech improvement), rhinoplasty (nose surgery to correct deformities associated with the cleft), and corrective jaw surgery to accommodate jaw size discrepancies that form as a result of the cleft and scar tissue formed over time.
Treatment of your child’s cleft requires a team approach of several professionals to achieve the optimal results. Dr. Warren will work closely with a cleft team usually consisting of a speech pathologist, audiologist, otolaryngologist, orthodontist, and pediatrician. To make an appointment for your child to meet with Dr. Scott Warren, please contact our office today.