Craniofacial Orthodontics: Cleft Lip and Palate
The Orthodontists at Rad Orthodontics work with a team of specialists to treat cleft palates and cleft lips.
What is Craniofacial Orthodontics?
Craniofacial orthodontics is a sub-specialty of orthodontics that focuses on the treatment of patients with birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. A team of doctors including orthodontists, speech pathologists, oral surgeons, and craniofacial plastic surgeons works together to plan and manage the treatments required to correct a cleft lip and palate, or other jaw and face abnormalities.
As a member of a craniofacial team, a craniofacial orthodontist evaluates tooth and jaw development and growth. The orthodontist handles the non-surgical components of jaw positioning and is also responsible for the pre- and post-operative treatment of jaw surgery: monitoring jaw growth through X-rays and models.
What is a Cleft Lip and Palate?
Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial malformations in which the parts of the face that form the upper lip and mouth remain split, instead of sealing together before birth. Similar splits can occur in the roof of the mouth, or palate.
Clefting occurs when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area and the available tissue does not join together properly. The defect occurs in early fetal development, and the cause is unknown in most cases. There does appear to be a link with genetics and maternal environmental exposures during pregnancy.
While it's important to handle the aesthetic considerations associated with cleft lip and palate, the medical considerations are equally or even more important.
- Difficulty eating – When there is a separation or opening in the palate, food and liquids can pass from the mouth back through the nose. While waiting for surgery, patients can use specially designed prosthetics to help keep fluids flowing downward towards the stomach, to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.
- Speech difficulties – Because the upper lip and palate are not properly formed, it may be difficult for children to speak clearly, and when they do, it may produce a nasal sound. Because speech may be hard to understand, a speech pathologist may be consulted to resolve these issues.
- Ear infections – Cleft lip and palate can lead to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, which leaves children at a higher risk for ear infections, and if not properly treated, even deafness. To prevent infections, small tubes may be placed in the eardrums to facilitate fluid drainage.
- Dental problems – Children who suffer from cleft lip and palate also often have missing, malformed, or displaced teeth, which can lead to a higher number of cavities and other dental and orthodontic issues.
The treatment for a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate is most likely surgery, which usually takes place between three and six months of age. Depending on the severity of the case, more than one surgery may be necessary.
If you or your child has a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate, contact Rad Orthodontics to discuss treatment options.