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Correcting Clefts | Our Dental Blog

Correcting Clefts

Feb 19 2019

Orofacial clefts, likewise called cleft lip or cleft palate, are one of the most common birth defects in the United States. Actually, it is approximated that about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate every year in the US, and about 4,440 are born with a cleft lip. A cleft results during very early pregnancy while the baby's face is developing. When the parts of the face neglect to join together during pregnancy, it results in a cleft.

Cleft Treatment In History

Orofacial clefts have actually been recorded in case history as early as 390 B.C. Actually, throughout this time, the first successful cleft lip surgery took place in China. Wey Young-Chi was the very first documented patient to go through surgery to mend his cleft lip at 18-years-old. After his surgery, he signed up with the royal army where he found much success. He was even reported as believing that he never would have accomplished as much if it had not been for the surgical procedure that repaired his cleft.

Abnormalities of Cleft Lip

A cleft lip takes place when the tissue that form the lips do not fuse before birth, and this leads to a hole in the upper lip. The dimension of the opening can range between a little slit to a large opening that expands from the lip to the nose. There are 3 sorts of cleft lip: complete (meaning that the slit starts at the lip and rises right into the nose), bilateral (occurs on both sides), or unilateral (happens on one side).

Abnormalities of Cleft Palate

Similar to a cleft lip, a cleft palate happens when the cells that makes up the roof of the mouth does not connect while the mother is pregnant, leading to a space. A child's palate may be disrupted in the soft palate--the area in the rear of the mouth--or in the hard palate-- the location nearest to the lips-- and sometimes, some babies have spaces in both areas.


The CDC has released their research on some aspects that could boost the probability that a person will give birth to a baby with orofacial clefts. However, it must be noted that the causes of this deformity are mainly unknown, and also slits can occur for causes that are not in the mom's control.

Women who smoke during their pregnancy, develop diabetes prior to getting pregnant, or take medications to treat epilepsy within the initial 3 months of pregnancy are at a bigger risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft lip and/or palate contrasted to individuals that do not belong to any of these variables. Additional causes can consist of the patient’s family history, obesity, and alcohol consumption.

Adverse Effects

While orofacial clefts can be fixed, the presence of these divides triggers specific issues for the baby. For example, among the most concerning challenges when handling a child with a cleft palate is stressful meals. Since the slit occurs in the palate for some babies, it can create problems in the baby's ability to nurse and swallow. A cleft palate can also place the infant in jeopardy for developing hearing loss as well as liquid in the ear; it can also interrupt the advancement of the child forming a typical speech pattern and triggering the baby to have a nasally voice. Other issues consist of interrupted tooth development and also social, psychological, and behavior problems.

Diagnosing and Treating Clefts

Orofacial clefts can be detected while the mother is pregnant by use of a regular ultrasound. Slit palates, however, are normally diagnosed quickly after birth. Surgery to fix slits is recommended to occur within the initial 18 months of life.

In terms of cleft lip surgical treatments, the physician will make lacerations on each side of the slit. With the flaps of skin, muscular tissue, and intraoral cells, the physician stitches them together in order to shut the cleft. With the separation shut, the lip and nose anatomy can be offered a much more regular structure and function.

A cleft palate calls for the doctor to restore the roof of the mouth. Comparable to a cleft lip treatment, the medical professional will make cuts on either side of the slit. The tissues of the hard and also soft palate are repositioned and the laceration is sewn back up.

It is normal for infants born with a cleft to receive additional care after the preliminary surgery to shut the slit. These extra treatments will help the child build stronger speech and language advancement, in addition to enhancing their ability to hear and breathe. Speech therapy and special dental needs are common, as well. Despite the surgeries and added assistance, a lot of kids with orofacial clefts tend to lead typical and balanced lives.

Do you want to read more articles that Dr. Sato has written? You can find all kinds of specific topics concerning dental practices and useful patient information on Dr. Sato’s blog archive.

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