The team of certified Orthodontists at Wonder West Orthodontics has been providing specialized cleft lip and palate treatments and support for patients in and around London, Ontario for over twenty years. We have extensive experience and expertise in cleft lip and palate treatment. We are dedicated to helping patients and their families further understand the process involved with cleft lip and palate treatment and what’s involved with the procedure.
What is a Cleft Lip and Palate?
Cleft palate and lip are common facial abnormalities that can develop at birth where parts of the upper lip and mouth can remain split instead of properly sealing together. These facial splits can also take place on the roof of the mouth or palate of a young child. This facial defect occurs in the early stages of a baby’s development. Recent research shows that there appears to be a link between genetics and the environmental exposures that are experienced during pregnancy with cleft lip and palate formation. With orthodontic treatment and surgery, these abnormalities can be addressed.
Issues That May Result from a Cleft Lip & Palate
There are also several side-effects or aesthetic considerations associated with a cleft palate or lip, such as:
Patients can experience difficulty eating if there is an opening or split in the palate and in some incidents, food can pass back to the nose through the mouth. In order to get adequate nutrition, patients who may be awaiting surgery use prosthetics to help with eating and drinking, ensuring that fluids are moving in the correct direction towards the stomach.
It is common for patients with a cleft lip or palate to experience speech difficulties. This is caused when the lip and palate are not adequately formed, limiting speech abilities in younger patients. Some patients may produce a nasal sound when speaking or may experience difficulties speaking clearly and cohesively. A qualified speech pathologist can assist with resolving these issues.
A cleft lip or palate can also affect the ear and auditory functions in some patients. It is common for fluid to develop in the ear canal, which could potentially cause infections or even lead to deafness. Small tubes that are placed within the eardrum are used to help relieve any build-up of fluid in order to prevent infections.
It is common with patients that have a cleft lip or palate to experience missing, displaced or malformed teeth. This can lead to an increase in dental and orthodontic concerns later in life.
How Are Cleft Lip and Palate Treated?
The treatment for cleft lip and palate for infants and very young patients is most likely craniofacial surgery. A team of specialized craniofacial orthodontists and specialists can develop a treatment plan that is unique to the patients’ needs and development. Depending on the severity of the case, more than one surgery may be necessary. The team at Wonder West Orthodontics’ role in cleft lip and palate care starts at birth, where we fabricate infant orthopedic appliances to prepare for cleft lip and palate repair surgery.
At around age 8, the orthodontists at Wonder West Orthodontics will review children with alveolar bone concerns for orthodontic treatment to prepare for an alveolar bone graft. In most cases, expansion of the maxilla and bone grafting of the alveolus (the tooth-bearing portion of the upper jaw) is necessary, with the expansion beginning at about 8 to 9 years of age. The purpose of the expansion is to bring the child’s teeth into a correct relationship with each other. When this has been deemed successful, the maxillo-facial surgeon then places a bone graft to replace the missing bony tissue. The expanded position of the dental arch is maintained for 6 to 12 months by which time the graft should have taken successfully. The procedure should be completed by the age of 10.
Full orthodontic alignment can start with the use of fixed braces when all the permanent teeth have erupted (usually by the age of 12-13 years).
In a significant number of cases, orthognathic surgery to correct a misalignment of the dental arches is necessary and this surgery is carried out at about 18 years of age. In many cases, this surgery yields very good results.
Specialized Cleft Lip and Palate Orthodontic Treatment
The orthodontists at Wonder West Orthodontics partner with a multidisciplinary team to use current techniques for cleft lip and palate treatment and surgery. We guide our patients and families through the necessary steps and surgery process to ensure the best care and results. For more information about and cleft lip and palate treatments, contact the team at Wonder West Orthodontics today. We will gladly schedule a personalized consultation to provide you with the most ideal treatment options available.
Before and After Cleft Palate Treatment
Incredible results and inspiring journeys — see some of our patients’ before and after photos next time you visit our practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
How successful is cleft palate surgery?
With most children, cleft lip and palate are treated successfully with no lasting issues. Our team of orthodontists is experienced in treating children with cleft lip and palate and can create a customized care and surgery plan that is unique to the patient.
How long does cleft lip and palate surgery take?
While the exact length of the surgery for cleft lip and palate treatment is unique to each patient’s needs, it can usually take between 2 to 4 hours. Your medical team can provide more information about the length of time needed.