Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are two common but markedly different birth defects that affect about one in every 700 newborns. These developmental deformities occur in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy; cleft lip in week seven, and cleft palate in week nine. Cleft lip and cleft palate occur simultaneously in about half of all cases, and separately in approximately a quarter of all cases.

A cleft lip is essentially a separation of the two sides of the lip. In many cases, this separation will include the bone and gum of the upper jaw. A cleft palate occurs when the sides of the palate fail to “fuse” as the fetus is developing, which results in an opening in the roof of the mouth.

The cleft deformities are categorized according to their location in the mouth and the size of the defect.

Unilateral Incomplete: A cleft on only one side of the mouth that does not extend as far as the nostril.

Unilateral Complete: A cleft on only one side of the mouth that extends into the corresponding nostril.

Bilateral Complete: Larger clefts affecting both sides of the mouth which each extend as far as the nostril.

Microform Cleft: A mild case of cleft lip which may simply form a bump on the lip, or a small scar line extending toward the nostril.

Reasons for cleft lip and cleft palate correction

Cleft lip and cleft palate are highly treatable deformities, though it may take a whole team of different specialists to fully treat the condition. The prognosis for sufferers who receive corrective treatment is excellent; medically, physically, dentally, and emotionally. There are however, a series of risks for those who do not receive corrective treatment:

  • Speech – Children born with either cleft deformity are likely to experience speech problems unless treatment is sought. Speech problems are detrimental to a child’s social and emotional development.
  • Feeding – Babies with a cleft palate or a complete cleft lip have problems drinking milk. The gap means that liquids can pass from the mouth to the nasal cavity. This can be dangerous unless the child is fed sitting upright.
  • Hearing Loss & Frequent Ear Infections – A cleft palate can cause the eustachian tubes (connecting the throat to the ear) to be incorrectly positioned. The fluid build up which results from this poor positioning can lead to painful middle ear infections. Severe and prolonged ear infections can lead to complete hearing loss.
  • Dental Issues – Abnormalities in the upper jaw, gum, or arch can cause teeth to become impacted (unable to erupt) or absent completely. The shape of the mouth might not permit proper brushing which can lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay.

What does cleft lip and cleft palate treatment involve?

Initially, surgeons will work to close the cleft openings in the first six months of the child’s life. Unfortunately, this does not cure the dental problems that occur as a result of cleft lip and cleft palate defects. The dentist will perform a thorough examination of the teeth surrounding the deformity. Panoramic x-rays will generally be taken to allow the dentist to determine the best course of treatment.

The dentist may implant teeth to fill resulting gaps, and/or place braces on the teeth in order to correctly align the upper arch. These treatments will restore functionality to the jaw and improve the aesthetic appearance of the smile. Dental restoration work can generally be performed under local anesthetic and will not require an overnight stay.

If your child was born with any cleft deformity, we strongly encourage you to contact our office to schedule a consultation.

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Testimonials

Dr. Baltazar has been our family dentist for more than 20 years. In all that time, we have received only the absolute best quality care and treatment. His credentials, expertise and reputation are all impeccable.
Whether the treatment plan is simple or complex, he has always taken as much time as necessary to make sure we understand exactly what is to be done and why. We never feel like we're being rushed or being confused by complex technical jargon. One of my fears used to The Needle, but I am still continually amazed by his precise, gentle and deft administration of anesthesia. I actually sort of look forward to it!
His assistants and staff deserve praise, too. Both the front office staff and his technicians are always considerate, cheerful but also knowledgeable. Long-time office manager Cecilia has always been so helpful and friendly to us that we practically regard her as another family member.
Just as we came to Dr. Baltazar's practice by way of an enthusiastic recommendation from a trusted friend, we would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone looking for the best dentist in town.

Tim Scott and Linda Fetch

Dr. B.~ You have set a high bar of expectations for any dentist who treats me to attempt to reach. I cannot thank you enough for all of the outstanding care you have provided to me over these last few years. May the Lord bless you in the next 30 (or however many) years of your practice! With fond gratitude,

Margaret Lowing

You'll not find a more caring, personal dentist around! I've been going to him for over 10 years. My two young daughters even requested to go to him OVER their previous childhood dentist (who had video games and movies playing at all times) which says alot! Dr. Baltazar is a dentist you can trust with yourself and your family!

Christineh

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