Treatment for a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate

Cleft lips and palates are among the most common birth defects. A cleft lip is an opening that splits the upper lip in half, while a cleft palate is a similar fissure in the roof of the mouth. In some cases, the two birth defects occur simultaneously.

Babies born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate face many challenges if the condition is not corrected by an oral surgeon. These issues not only have an impact on a child’s appearance, they can also compromise nutrition and overall wellbeing.

Although cleft lip or palate treatment may be considered to be cosmetic dentistry, it is essential to address the problem, ideally when the child is very young.

The many risks associated with cleft lips and cleft palates include increased likelihood of decay and malformed teeth. Children with these birth defects also may have problems speaking and eating, and they are more prone to ear infections as a result of increased build-up of fluid in the middle ear.

Fortunately, cleft lips and palates can be addressed by common surgical procedures. In the case of a cleft lip, the surgery to unite the lip takes place when the child is just under three months old. If a nostril deformity is present, a second surgery may be needed at a later date.

With a cleft palate, the initial surgery is completed when the child is between 7 and 18 months old. This procedure aims to create a functional palate by closing the hole between the roof of the mouth and the nose and connecting muscles to the palate.

A second surgery may be needed to repair a cleft hard palate. This occurs between ages of 8 and 12 years, and it involves a bone graft in which material from the hip is inserted into the cleft. This procedure stabilizes the upper jaw, allowing it to support permanent teeth.

Although cleft lips and palates come with potentially serious consequences, they can be readily addressed with surgical interventions. If you have a child with one of these birth defects, consult with our experienced team at Charlottesville Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center while the child is still young and the treatment less traumatic.

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