Cleft palates and lips are the most commonly experienced birth defects with one or two such deformities occurring, on average, every 1,000 births. The cleft may occur at the back or the front of the baby's palate or both. A cleft palate may be accompanied by a cleft lip or on its own.
Problems Caused by a Cleft palate
The cleft in the lip or palate can make it difficult for the baby to form an airtight seal to suck and if a baby cannot suck it cannot feed properly. A cleft palate can cause fluid to build up in the middle ear causing temporary hearing loss or ear infections. Dental problems associated with a cleft palate can include small teeth, missing teeth, extra teeth, or teeth that are out of position. There may be a problem with the alveolar ridge (the bone that supports the teeth). As saliva production can be impeded, children with cleft palates may suffer from worse tooth decay. The cleft can allow air to leak from the mouth into the nose causing the child to speak with a nasal sounding voice. These symptoms can make the child feel different from other children leading to low self-esteem for the child and possibly their parents too.
Treatment of Cleft Palate and Lips
Surgery for cleft lips is usually carried out between 10 and 12 weeks after birth. Surgery for a cleft palate (palatoplasy) is usually carried out between 9 and 18 months after birth. The exact timing will depend upon the overall health of the child and the severity and location of the cleft(s). Once the surgery is complete, the child may need follow up treatments in speech therapy and dental and orthodontic care. Orthodontic surgery helps to improve the results of cleft surgery by bringing the parts of the upper jaw, lips and nose into better position.
In summary, it is best to get a cleft palate corrected as soon as possible as surgical repair can improve the appearance of a child's face and may also improve breathing, hearing, speech and, ultimately, the child's self-esteem. To find out more, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
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