What is Cleft Lip/Palate:
Cleft lip and palate is a birth defect that affects many newborns in the United States.
- A cleft of the palate occurs, before birth when the palatal tissue does not join together. This leaves an opening at the roof of the mouth that connects to the inside of your nose.
- A cleft lip occurs, before birth, when the lip fails to fuse properly. The lip gives the appearance that it is “split open.” The opening for a cleft lip or palate can appear on either side of the face which is called a unilateral cleft or both which is called a bilateral cleft lip.
Prior to surgery Nasoalveolar Molding Therapy, a nonsurgical method, which will allow for a reduction in the gap. With these 15 to 18 weekly therapies we are able prepare the infant for surgery to repair the lip and palate which will allow for a reduction in the gap and will provide better aesthetic results at the time of surgery. NAM is used mainly for children with large or wide clefts and has greatly changed cleft repair. Timing is important and ideally a newborn should begin treatment, two weeks after birth, the latest before six weeks of age.
Prenatal Diagnosis and Consultation:
During a mothers routine prenatal visit a diagnosis of cleft lip and palate can occur with an ultrasound screening. If the mothers physician suspects a cleft lip or cleft palate it is important that parents schedule a prenatal consultation with our office. The goal of the visit is to help prepare parents as much as possible and answer any questions or concerns they may have about their baby’s diagnosis.
During this time parents will get information on:
- We will Explore family history of cleft
- Outline treatment plan, timeline, risk factors and benefits
- Prepare parents for all recommended procedures and outcomes
- Offer to network with other parents
Once you have delivered your baby it is important that we are notified immediately so that we can prepare your baby for therapy before the baby is discharged. We will then schedule parents and the baby to come to our office to begin therapy.
Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment Timeline
Once a patient begins their journey in correcting a Cleft Lip and Palate, a patient will need specialized treatment. Our pediatric dental team is a part of the El Paso Cleft Lip and Palate Team which is an American Cleft Palate Association Certified Cleft Team. This team is comprised of surgeons, speech and language pathologists, pediatric dentists, ENT’s, social workers, and occupational therapists. This coordinated effort helps to ensure that each patient has a successful outcome.
Each one of our patients are seen once a week in our office to make any changes and adjustments to the appliance. This will help guide the baby’s lip and palate as they reshape.
As a result of this procedure, the primary surgical repair of the nose and lip heals under minimal tension, thereby reducing scar formation and improving the esthetic result.