Cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital malformations that happen during early gestation at a rate of 1 in every 800 babies. These days, parents can feel at ease, knowing that oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained to repair these conditions with great success and very favorable aesthetic outcomes.
The two sides of the face develop separately and then join together during pregnancy. In the case of a cleft lip, the two sides did not completely join together, leaving a separation on the lip that is not only noticeable, but can interfere with a child’s ability to suck, eat and speak. The cleft can occur on one side (unilateral), or both (bilateral). Surgery for cleft lips is typically performed before three months of age. Additional surgeries are sometimes needed to fix the nostril or gums if affected.
The “palate” is the roof of your mouth, and it is designed to separate the nasal cavity. This is very important for two reasons:
The palate forms in a similar way to the lips – it is supposed to connect during pregnancy, but sometimes it doesn’t do so properly, forming a separation.
The repairing of a cleft palate typically requires several surgeries over the course of the child’s first 18 years. The first is often done between 7 and 18 months old. Goals of surgery include the closing of the gap or hole, the reconnection of muscles and the repair of the palate to ensure its proper functioning.
Sometimes children born with cleft palate may also have small chins or other craniofacial anomalies that may interfere with breathing or aesthetics. Dr. Asnani will evaluate your child carefully to ensure the safest, most comprehensive plan for care.