Every year in the United States, more than 6,000 babies are born with facial clefts, including cleft palate, cleft lip, or both. Although cleft defects are a relatively common type of birth defect, they’re still surrounded by a lot of misinformation that could potentially have an effect on their treatment.
At Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center, in Oakland and San Francisco, California, Brandon Kang, DDS, and his team offer state-of-the-art cleft surgery to correct cleft deformities in the palate and lip, including more complex cases.
In this post, Dr. Kang and his team address some of the more common misconceptions surrounding cleft defects to provide a clearer, fact-based understanding of these problems.
Cleft defects do change the way the face looks, but cleft palates and cleft lips affect far more than cosmetics. Clefts increase the risks of speech problems, eating difficulties, and oral health issues, along with ear infections and hearing deficiencies. Infants with cleft defects can have a hard time feeding properly and getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
This is a common misconception. Actually, cleft palate and cleft lip are two distinct issues that can occur separately or in combination.
Cleft lip features a split in the upper lip. The split can occur in the middle of the lip, or on one or both sides. Sometimes, the split extends all the way to the nose.
Cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth (or palate). Cleft palate can occur on its own (entirely contained in the mouth) or alongside cleft lip.
This myth might be related to the fact that some clefts are linked with speech or hearing problems. However, cleft defects are in no way associated with a higher incidence of learning disabilities. A child born with a cleft defect can expect to have the same level of academic and intellectual achievement as a child born without a cleft.
While there may eventually be a way to prevent cleft defects, there’s no current way to prevent them or to determine if an unborn child is more likely to develop one. Researchers don’t know exactly why cleft defects form, although they believe a combination of genetics, heredity, and environmental factors are probably involved.
Cleft surgery is as individual as your child, and at our practice, Dr. Kang and his team use an approach that’s tailored to your child’s needs. While some cleft defects can be corrected in a single surgery, others may need more than one surgery, timed to coincide with your child’s developmental milestones.
For instance, for cleft lip, surgery usually is recommended before a child reaches their first birthday. Cleft palates that affect the upper teeth may be repaired between 6-9 years of age, when their adult upper teeth begin to emerge. Nostril repair may also be delayed to give your child’s facial features time to form.
While doctors may not be able to prevent cleft defects, Dr. Kang and his team can successfully treat them using the most advanced techniques for optimal results. To learn more about cleft surgery, call our office most convenient to you or book a consultation online today.