Many people don’t know that when the face develops in the womb, the left and right sides develop separately and then join together. In some cases, however, both sides are unable to develop properly, and they don’t end up joining. When this happens, a space, or a cleft, occurs. Clefts most commonly occur in the upper lip and the palate (roof) of the mouth. These gaps are troublesome not only for a child’s appearance but also for their oral function.
The roof of the mouth, often called the palate, is vital to proper oral function. It separates the mouth from the nose, making sure that when you speak or eat, air and food are not traveling between the two. When the palate does not form correctly, such as in cases where a cleft occurs, it makes eating and breathing very difficult. There are varying degrees of cleft palate, ranging from a small gap to a complete separation of the roof of the mouth. Managing this condition requires the expertise of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Oral surgeons are specially trained in cleft palate treatment. They can perform surgery – sometimes several surgeries – to carefully close the gap in the palate. As the child ages, the palate continues to grow, which is why several surgeries are typically required to fully correct the cleft. With these surgeries, Dr. Iero can close the gap in the palate, reconnect the muscles that allow it to function, and ensure it’s the right size.
Much like cleft palate, cleft lip refers to a gap in the mouth. A cleft, or gap, in the lip, can make it very difficult for babies to nurse properly. Surgery to treat a cleft lip is typically performed early to prevent infants from losing nourishment.
Cleft Lip and Palate at Bellaire Facial, Oral & Dental Implant Surgery
After treatment of a cleft lip or palate, children can immediately eat and breathe better. In rare cases, a cleft may recur after surgery, causing the need for another surgery. Fortunately, Dr. Iero has undergone extensive training and can ensure your child’s oral health and function are not permanently affected. We encourage you to contact our office in Bellaire, TX, for a consultation if you think your child may require this treatment.