During early pregnancy, different parts of the face grow on their own and then join together later on. A Cleft is when these sections do not meet up correctly and do not meet in the right place. If this occurs on the upper lip this is known as a cleft lip. A fully formed lip is critical for the ability to suck and to make many sounds associated with speech, but also for physical appearance. This condition creates a gap in the upper lip in the space between the nose and the mouth creating a split look in the lip. This is why speech can be difficult with one. It can vary from a slight indent on the coloured part of the lip to a complete separation between the two sides of the lip that extends all the way to the base of the nose. A unilateral cleft is one that is asymmetrical or on one side. If it is on both sides then it known as a bilateral cleft.
Clefts can also extend down into the gum ranging from a small indent in the gums to a separation between the gum into independent parts, this especially can cause problems with eating and speaking.
If the cleft goes along the mouth it is known as cleft palate. The palate is made up of the bone, muscle and a thin layer of skin. This is what creates the red covering inside your mouth. Its primary purpose is keep your nose and mouth apart from one another. Your palate is vital for both speech and eating. While speaking, it prevents air from going out of your nose rather than your mouth. While eating it prevents food and or liquids from finding their way into your nose.
A cleft palate forms in a very similar way to a cleft lip, during early pregnancy while both sides of the face are developing. A cleft palate is when there is a gap in the top of the mouth. The soft palate is located in the back of the mouth, while the hard palate is located at the front of the mouth. A cleft palate could be as minor as an opening of the soft palate to a full split of the mouth, which would be both the hard and soft portions.
Babies can also be born a cleft palate and a small chin, which has the potential to make breathing significantly more difficult.
Due to the fact that lip and palate develop independently from each other, it is possible for a baby to be born with clefts in either or both features. Clefts occur on average in one of every eight hundred babies.
Children born with these conditions will generally require the a few professionals to help manage the problems that come along with this birth defect, most commonly feeding, hearing, psychological treatment as well as speech. Surgery is recommended in the majority of cases. With surgery many of issues associated with the defects can be resolved.
Cleft lip treatment
This surgery is generally performed at very young age, often as early as ten weeks old. The surgery has a few goals, mainly to close the gap, give the mouth a normal shape and restore the function of the muscles. The deformity caused by the cleft can sometimes be resolved in the same surgery but can often require another.
Cleft Palate Treatment
Cleft palate surgery generally takes place when the child is a little bit older, between seven to eighteen months, but it depends on the specific child and where the cleft is. If there are other problems, treating a cleft palate may not be the top priority. The surgery has several goals the main one being to close the gap in the roof of the mouth. The surgery will also reconnect muscles allowing the palate to function appropriately. The palate will also be made long enough to work correctly. There are a variety of different ways to achieve these goals, and would be discussed prior to surgery.
If the cleft is in the hard palate, surgery will have to wait until the age of between eight and twelve months when the canine teeth start to develop. This surgery involves harvesting bone mass from the hip into the defect to close it. The procedure can also be performed on teenagers and adults, in its own surgery or at the same time as a corrective jaw surgery.
What are the results of the surgery? What can be expected?
After a cleft in the palate has been closed the patient will have a significantly easier experience swallowing both food and liquids right after the surgery. Roughly every one in five children will have a portion of their repair split. Many times this is just a minor leak from time to time, with fluids going into the nose. If the hole is larger it can cause many of issues associated with the original cleft, mostly with regards to eating and speaking. This hole is called a fistula and may quite likely require further surgery to remedy.
Dealing with a cleft defect can seem like a lot to handle, but we at Martindale Dental have years of experience performing these procedures. We will walk you through the entire process before and after surgery.
Martindale Dental provides both general and specialty dentistry under one roof. For more than 20 years, our dentists have been advocates for their patients oral health care needs. Our dental offices are conveniently located in Toronto, North York, St Catharines, North York, Burlington, Milton East and Milton West, Ontario. We offer convenient before & after work and weekend appointments.