Cleft lip and cleft palate are two common but markedly different birth defects that affect about one in every 700 newborns. These developmental deformities occur in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy; cleft lip in week seven, and cleft palate in week nine. Cleft lip and cleft palate occur simultaneously in about half of all cases, and separately in approximately a quarter of all cases.
A cleft lip is essentially a separation of the two sides of the lip. In many cases, this separation will include the bone and gum of the upper jaw. A cleft palate occurs when the sides of the palate fail to “fuse” as the fetus is developing, which results in an opening in the roof of the mouth.
The cleft deformities are categorized according to their location in the mouth and the size of the defect.
A cleft on only one side of the mouth that does not extend as far as the nostril.
A cleft on only one side of the mouth that extends into the corresponding nostril.
Larger clefts affecting both sides of the mouth which each extend as far as the nostril.
A mild case of cleft lip which may simply form a bump on the lip, or a small scar line extending toward the nostril.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are highly treatable deformities, though it may take a whole team of different specialists to fully treat the condition. The prognosis for sufferers who receive corrective treatment is excellent; medically, physically, dentally, and emotionally. There are however, a series of risks for those who do not receive corrective treatment:
Initially, surgeons will work to close the cleft openings in the first six months of the child’s life. Unfortunately, this does not cure the dental problems that occur as a result of cleft lip and cleft palate defects. The dentist will perform a thorough examination of the teeth surrounding the deformity. Panoramic x-rays will generally be taken to allow the dentist to determine the best course of treatment.
The dentist may implant teeth to fill resulting gaps, and/or place braces on the teeth in order to correctly align the upper arch. These treatments will restore functionality to the jaw and improve the aesthetic appearance of the smile. Dental restoration work can generally be performed under local anesthetic and will not require an overnight stay.
If your child was born with any cleft deformity, we strongly encourage you to contact our office to schedule a consultation.