Cleft Lip & Palate Repair Cleft lip and palate repair is usually performed early in life. Even after the repair is complete, a long road lies ahead to restore correct form and function. Despite correctly performed surgeries in the first 2 years of life, deficits may still remain including:

  • Growth restriction of the upper jaw
  • Missing bone (clefting of upper jaw)
  • Nasal Fistulas
  • Missing teeth
  • Jaw deformities
  • Dental problems and “underbite”

It is important that your child get early involvement with an appropriately trained orthodontist. This is vital in monitoring and modifying your child’s growth. Tooth development is intimately involved in determining the timing required for the optimal outcome. Development of your child’s teeth and jaws may require bone grafting at a specific developmental point. Frequently, involvement of the Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon is recommended for bone grafting, jaw surgery, and implant placement of congenitally missing teeth. These are routine procedures for the Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon, and are easily applied to the cleft patient. Please visit the corresponding tabs on this website for more information. Trained in both surgery and dentistry, the Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon has an important and unique role in providing care to your child.

What is a cleft lip?

During the early weeks of development, long before a child is born, the separate areas of the face develop individually and then join together later. This includes the left and right sides of the roof of the mouth and lips. Occasionally, however, these parts do not join properly and a separation occurs in the upper lip. This condition is called a “cleft lip.”

With a cleft lip, an opening is created in the upper lip between the mouth and nose, looking as though there is a split in the lip. This can be detrimental on both a physical and functional level. A completely formed lip is important for a normal facial appearance, but also for sucking and forming certain sounds made during speech. Often the diagnosis of a cleft lip or palate can be made with prenatal ultrasound. If the cleft is seen on progressive sonograms and the Obstetrician informs you of the diagnosis, then it is very helpful to have a pre delivery conference with the Surgeon, who can help you understand and get ready for babies arrival.

What is a cleft palate?

A similar defect in the roof of the mouth is called a “cleft palate.” The palate (roof of the mouth) is made of bone and muscle, and is covered by a thin, wet skin that forms the red covering inside the mouth. Like a cleft lip, a cleft palate occurs in early pregnancy when separate areas of the face have developed individually but fail to join together properly. This defect can range in severity from an opening at the back of the soft palate to a nearly complete separation of the mouth.

The palate is meant to separate your nose from your mouth and plays an important role in speech functions. When you talk, the palate prevents air from blowing out of your nose instead of your mouth. The palate also prevents food and liquid from going up into the nose.

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