The conditions known as cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations which start to occur in the early stage of pregnancy while the baby is still developing inside the womb of his or her mother. Babies who are born with a cleft lip are recommended to undergo pediatric cleft lip surgery and babies who are born with a cleft palate are recommended to undergo palate repair in order to close the gap.
Children that are more Susceptible to Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate
In the United States alone, there are about 700 babies who are born either with a cleft lip only, a cleft palate only or even both. This has been the fourth most common birth defect that happens to babies in the United States. If you are of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent, there is a higher chance that your baby might have a cleft either on the lips, the palate, or both as it is more prevalent with the aforementioned descents.
Also, as compared with girls, baby boys are more susceptible because based on statistics, there are twice as many boys who have a cleft lip as compared to baby girls.
Common Problems Encountered For Children With Cleft Lip And/or Palate
Children who have clefts usually have problems with eating. Because there is an opening or a cleft in the palate, the food, and the liquids that a child consumes can pass from the back of the mouth and then straight through the nose. Luckily, there are already those specially designed bottles and nipples for babies who have cleft so that the fluids that they intake will now just flow downward and then toward the stomach. For children who have cleft palates, they may be required to wear man-made palate in order for them to eat properly and to see to it that they are indeed getting the right amount of nutrition until such time that their pediatric cleft lip surgery will be provided.
Ear infections and/or hearing loss are also some of the problems that a child with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate can have. When a child has a cleft palate, he or she has a higher risk of an ear infection because they are at risk of fluid build-up in their middle ear. So if the cleft will remain untreated, the ear infection can worsen and can lead to hearing loss. So, to stop this from happening, children who have cleft palates will be needing special tubes that need to be placed in the eardrums so to serve as an aid to fluid drainage, and their hearing should be checked at least once per year.
Children who have clefts usually have problems with their speech. This is another common problem with children who have a cleft lip or a cleft palate. Because of the cleft, their voice will not carry well, and they will speak with a very nasal sound making their speech more difficult to understand.
But, not all children possess these problems and surgery can help in fixing this problem for some children. However, some may need a special doctor known as a speech pathologist and they will work with the child in resolving their speech difficulties.
Professionals Who Treat Children that have a Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate
The following are the typical team members in a pediatric cleft lip surgery:
- A plastic surgeon who will be involved in the evaluation and in performing surgeries on the lip and/or on the child’s palate.
- An otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor who is in charge of the evaluation of the possible hearing problems that the child may have and in considering the treatment options for such hearing problems if any.
- An oral surgeon will be needed to take charge of repositioning the segments of the upper jaw so that the function and appearance will be improved because of the reparation procedure.
- When it comes to the repositioning of the segments of the child’s upper jaw, this will be the job of an oral surgeon and this will help in the improvement of the appearance of the gum along with the improvement of its function.
- An orthodontist who will be in charge of straightening and in repositioning the child’s teeth
- A dentist like kidshinehawaii.com who will be in charge of performing the routine dental care of the child
- A prosthodontist who will be in charge of making artificial and dental appliance in order to improve the appearance and be able to meet the functional requirements of the child for eating and speaking
- A speech pathologist who will be in charge of assessing the speech and the feeding problems of the child
- A speech therapist who will be in charge of the improvement of the child’s speech
- An audiologist is also needed, he or she is a specialist in communication disorders that are originating from hearing impairment. He or she will be in charge of assessing and monitoring the hearing abilities of the child
- A nurse coordinator who will be in charge of providing for the supervision of the health of the child
- A social worker or a psychologist who will be the one in charge of supporting the family and help in assessing any adjustment problems that may occur along the way
- A geneticist who will be in charge of helping the parents and the adult patients in giving them an understanding of the chances that they may have more children with the same conditions.
How Pediatric Cleft Lip Surgery can Treat a Child’s Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate
When a child has a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate, this may require one or two surgeries which will mainly be determined by the extent of the repair that the child is going to need. The first pediatric cleft lip surgery is usually done when the baby is already three months old. So, in the course of the 18 years in the life of the child, he or she might be needing a number of surgeries. When it comes to the repair of the palate, this usually happens when the baby is already 6 to 12 months old.