Frequently asked questions on Cleft lip and palate
A cleft lip is a congenital deformity of the upper lip where there is a gap known as a cleft due to which the skin, the muscle may be missing. It can also involve the gums. Sometimes it involves the nose as well classifying it as a complete cleft lip if the nose isn’t involved it’s an incomplete cleft lip. The cleft might be present on one side or both.
It is the presence of a gap in the roof of the mouth. It may be isolated or present along with cleft lip. It causes many difficulties including speech, mastication, etc.
What are the difficulties faced by such babies?
The primary problem faced by such babies is feeding difficulties. Due to the clefts present, these children need to be fed with special feeding bottles as it is difficult to take feeds with a standard nipple. Babies with an unrepaired cleft palate will typically have difficulties creating enough suction to get sufficient milk from the breast or teat.
What is the cause for cleft deformities?
Cleft deformities are often congenital in nature. In utero exposure to certain medications, cigarette smoking, alcohol exposure, and other factors are known risk factors.
The treatment starts from birth itself. The parents meet a counselor, who explains to them the condition of their baby and the further treatment steps. The treatment of such deformities requires a team approach. Before and after surgery the patient needs to get counsel by various other specialists as well. The cleft lip is treated when the baby is around 3-5 months of age and has gained 5kg body weight. The palate surgery is performed when the child attains 10 months of age. Speech therapy is started at around 3 years of age. Secondary alveolar bone grafting is done by 8-9 years to assist in the eruption of permanent canines. Then the child is sent for orthodontic therapy and will require Orthognathic surgery after orthodontic therapy is over.
Here at Richardson’s dental and Craniofacial center, we have a team of doctors that work towards the well being of a child affected by cleft deformities. Our team includes a pediatrician, anesthesiologists, maxillofacial surgeons, ENT surgeons, speech therapists, dentists, orthodontists all headed by our Chief Craniofacial Surgeon Dr. Sunil Richardson. We stress the importance of team effort in treating these children because we realize that special care has to be provided to them in order for them to lead normal lives. This is done all under one roof here at our center.