Cleft lips or cleft palate is a prevalent congenital disability among babies in America. About one out of every 800 babies in North America suffer from this condition. The problem arises from the incomplete formation of the lips, palate, or the mouth roof during the early stages of pregnancy.
The consequence of this condition in babies is the difficulty in eating and talking. It is also linked to ear infection, loss of hearing, and dental issues. They can occur alone or along with each other, and the extent of complications differ widely. Nevertheless, it is a treatable condition, and the baby will still live a healthy life afterward.
Several surgical operations need to be carried out, and at different times. So, medically, the problem is approached by a team of doctors each having his role to play. The team will likely involve the oral surgeon, pediatric dentist, plastic surgeon, and other specialists.
The first aim of the treatment is to close the space in between the lip or palate once the child starts to use them (mostly between 2 months and 9 months). Afterward, several treatments will be required to restore the activities of other areas of the mouth, such as the jaw, lips, and teeth. Such processes might involve plastic surgery, speech therapy, orthognathic repair, and orthodontics.
Surgical Treatment for Cleft Lip or Palate
Cleft lip surgical operation occurs in the hospital, and it is often carried out when the child is about 6 weeks and 12 weeks old. At first, anesthesia needs to be administered so that the child will not feel any pain or discomfort during the operation. Afterward, a cut is made on both sides of the cleft to open up flaps of tissues within. Then, these tissues are stocked together to close-up space. The tissues have to be stitched in such a way that it will align with the facial makeup of the baby to ensure minimal interference from the surgical scars.
On the other hand, cleft palate surgery is aimed at fixing the roof of the mouth, which involves the mouth tissues, muscles, and bone. It also takes place in the hospital, but most times, the first surgery has to occur when the child is 6 – 15 months old. Just as the lip technique, cleft palate also requires the use of incisions to create flaps that will be used to remodel the soft tissues and close the spaces. Depending on the condition, the child will need to use an obdurator (artificial palate) before or after the surgery. A Nasal alveolar molding device is also another alternative to the artificial palate.
In some cases, further follow-up treatment might be required to remediate the situation after surgery. However, it comes as a plan as the doctors have to build a schedule of events that will take place after the surgical process.
The after-treatment mostly involve bone grafting, pediatric dental analysis, orthodontic care, and other orthognathic treatment. The child might require some of these treatments up till age 12.
Managing cases of cleft lip/palate can be quite overwhelming for family members, but it is necessary to note that the condition can be permanently cured. Therefore, do not hesitate to take your child for treatment as many people with such defect at birth have grown to become notable individuals today.