Craniofacial Orthodontics – Cleft Lip and Palate
What is Craniofacial Orthodontics?
Craniofacial orthodontics is a sub-specialty of orthodontics that focuses on the treatment of patients with birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. A team of speech pathologists, oral surgeons, and craniofacial plastic surgeons are involved in planning the correction of the malformed mouth or jaw.
What is a Cleft Lip and Palate?
Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area. What forms from the available tissue does not form correctly. The parts of the face that form the upper lip and mouth remain split, instead of sealing together before birth. The cause is unknown, but may be due to genetics.
While there are aesthetic considerations associated with cleft lip and palate, having this birth defect can affect people in many more serious ways.
- Difficulty Eating –Foods and liquids can pass from the mouth back through the nose.
- Speech Difficulties – Because the upper lip and palate are not properly formed, it may be difficult for children to speak clearly.
- Ear Infections – Cleft lip and palate can lead to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, leaving children at a higher risk of ear infections, and if not properly treated, even deafness.
- Dental Problems – Children who suffer from cleft lip and palate also often have missing, malformed, or displaced teeth, leading to a higher number of cavities and other dental and orthodontic issues.
This is where your craniofacial orthodontist and team of specialists come in. Most of the time treatment will require surgery. Depending on the severity, several surgeries may be needed. Children are usually around 3 – 6 months old when the surgery is performed.