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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Formation and Treatment

One of the most common birth blemishes, a cleft lip or cleft palate is an opening in the upper lip or the mouth’s roof which might extend into the nose. Varying in severity, cleft lip and palate can occur individually or simultaneously and can involve either (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral) of the face. Known as orofacial cleft, these flaws generally lead to feeding problems, speech problems and a good many ear infections.

How is it formed?
During the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, i.e. the stage when the fetus develops, various bones and tissues fuse together to form the roof and lips of the baby. A cleft forms when certain components fail to come together.

Early intervention by specialists is vital if the cleft is to be repaired. It’s easy to repair clefts through specialized plastic surgeries. Most of the times, a cleft lip is repaired when the child is 6 to12 weeks old while the cleft palate is repaired when the child is older than 9 months. Both the surgeries involve general anaesthesia and possess certain risks:
– Breathing difficulty
– Infection
– Further surgery
– Reactions to the medicines

Nonetheless, there are no alternatives and a surgery is the only way out, for the clefts might cause hearing and speech disorders later in life.

Cleft Lip Surgery
Once the child is around 3 months old, a lip cleft surgery can be carried out. The children are first given general anaesthesia and then the cleft is carefully repaired. The tissues are trimmed and the lip sewn together. As the scars heal, most of the stitches dissolve within and this eliminates the need for removal. Such a surgery lasts for about 2 hours.

Cleft Palate Surgery
Unlike the lip surgery, a cleft palate surgery requires a child to be older than 9 months because this allows the palate to change as the child grows older. A surgery at this age also helps in preventing further speech issues. Carried under general anaesthetic, tissues from the mouth’s roof are moved and the lining of the palate is rearranged. The wound is then closed with dissolvable stitches. The operation generally requires about 2 hours but seldom might it happen that it takes more than 1 surgery to close the palate.

In some cases, it so might happen that a bunch of additional surgeries would be required to improve the appearance and functions of the lips and palate, to improve the shape of the nose (rhinoplasty), to improve the jaw appearance or to repair a cleft in the gum.

Recovery
Most children heal without difficulties. Complete recovery might take up-to a month and the wound needs to be kept very clean while it heals. It’s important that your child stays on a liquid diet.

It’s vital that you choose the right surgeon equipped with a proficient surgical department. Dr. Bhutani Dental Clinic is inclined towards treating congenital anomalies. Involved in various research activities, the surgeons at the clinic constantly undergo various training sessions and are one of the finest in the country.

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