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Understanding Cleft Lip and Palate Repair

The Harvard trained, board-certified surgeons at ORAL & MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY ASSOCIATES OF NEVADA in Summerlin and East Side Las Vegas, Nevada specialize in intricately complex orofacial surgeries such as cleft lip and cleft palate repair.

These talented physicians are highly regarded for their outstanding medical expertise and surgical skills, as well as their ability to make patients of all ages feel welcome and safe.

Read what they have to say about cleft lip and cleft palate and how surgical repair can help your child overcome the effects of this relatively common issue.     

What is a cleft lip and palate?

The bones and skin of a baby’s upper jaw, nose, and mouth usually fuse during the first 6-10 weeks of pregnancy. When this fails to happen, a gap (cleft) occurs in the roof of the mouth (palate) or lip.

Babies may be born with a cleft palate, a cleft lip, or both. The opening can vary significantly in size. For instance, a cleft lip may range from a small gap in the lip to a complete cleft that extends upward from the lip, through the gums, and into the nose.

Most cleft lips are unilateral, occurring on one side of the lip, but can involve both sides (bilateral cleft lip). A cleft palate may only happen at the back of the palate (soft palate) or extend into the hard palate behind the gums.

Health problems associated with cleft lip and palate

Along with the emotional difficulties associated with a distinct cleft, children with cleft lip or palate may experience:

The only treatment for cleft lip and palate is surgery.

What happens during cleft lip and palate surgery?

Cleft lip/palate repair aims to restore normal function to the lips, gums, and mouth and create a more normal facial appearance, which typically requires several surgeries and includes reshaping the lips and nose and ensuring healthy tooth development when necessary.

Surgery for cleft lip repair usually occurs at about three months of age. If the gap is vast or extends into the nasal region, your child may require procedures to bring the lip edges closer together or improve the nostrils’ shape before the cleft is closed.  

Cleft palate repair is usually undertaken between 10 and 12 months of age. It involves closing the palate gap and rearranging or repairing the muscles of the soft palate, which are vital for speech.

Depending on the nature of your child’s cleft, they may also require:

These procedures are typically done when the child is older or has finished growing. Your surgeon provides a detailed plan that includes long-term and short-term goals and expectations of cleft lip and palate repair before scheduling surgery.

For more information regarding cleft lip and palate repair, schedule a visit at ORAL & MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY ASSOCIATES OF NEVADA. 

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