Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that cause the two sides of the face to join improperly, leaving a cleft—or split—in the lip, the roof of the mouth (palate), or both. Depending on the severity of the case, cleft lip or palate cases typically involve a team of professionals, such as a dentist, pediatrician, speech pathologist, and oral surgeon, working together to repair the cleft and treat any symptoms associated with the condition.
The surgeons at our Amarillo office have received years of training to understand the delicate balance between the facial bones and structures. An oral surgeon is an integral part of the cleft lip or cleft palate treatment team for your child. Oral surgeons are trained to perform facial surgeries that restore both the function and the appearance of the mouth and face for patients of all ages, including pediatric cases.
Surgical Treatment for Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip
While special bottles and other tools have been developed to help children with cleft lip and palate, surgery will eventually be necessary to help the child eat and speak normally. Surgery can also help prevent other problems such as ear infections. Every case is different; some children only have a cleft lip, some have only a cleft palate, and others have both a cleft lip and palate. The extent and number of surgeries required will depend on the severity of the child’s condition.
In general, cleft lip requires one or two surgeries to fully repair, and the first surgery usually takes place before a baby is three months old. The goal of cleft lip surgery is to join the split in the lip and restore both the function and appearance of the lip and nose.
Cleft palate tends to have a more involved treatment process. In many cases, two or more surgeries will be required throughout a person’s childhood and adolescence. The first surgery usually takes place between the ages of 6–12 months. The goal of this surgery is to join the muscle and bone of the palate, making the palate more functional for eating and speaking and reducing the chances of developing fluid in the middle ears. Another surgery may be necessary around age eight to increase the amount of bone in the upper jaw and gum line. This surgery can help support the permanent adult teeth while also improving speech function. More surgeries or orthodontic work may be necessary throughout the child’s life, depending on the extent of their condition.
The treatment process may seem extensive, but most children with cleft lip or palate achieve normal eating, speech, and appearance after treatment. Our oral surgeons can work with you and your family to form a treatment plan. Our surgeons can be a crucial part of your treatment team to help support your child throughout the treatment process.
Contact our office for more information about cleft palate and lip treatment at Amarillo Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.