About Cleft Lip and Palate
Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur when not enough tissue is available to join together over the mouth or lip area. This condition takes place very early in pregnancy, while the baby is still developing. A cleft lip is the separation of the two sides of the upper lip area and appears as an opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. Often, this extends beyond the base of the nose to the upper jaw and gums. A cleft palate involves an opening in the roof of the mouth. Dr. Raj Sawh-Martinez is a highly trained craniofacial surgeon who has extensive experience in the surgical repair of cleft lip and palate. Dr. Sawh-Martinez treats children from all over the state each year, helping to restore their function and smiles.
Candidates for Treatment
All children with Cleft lip and palate will require surgical intervention within the first year of life. Cleft lip repairs are performed as early as three months of age, and staged repairs with early molding or adhesion procedures offered for more severe cases. Cleft palate repairs are performed between 10-12 months of age. There are many details that affect the overall morphology of the cleft, and the appropriate repair type. Dr. Sawh-Martinez performs a detailed evaluation of each child and employs sophisticated repair techniques, aiming for your child to undergo cleft lip or palate surgery with minimal discomfort and optimal outcomes.
A cleft lip repair may require one or two surgeries, depending on the extent of the malformation. Treatment will typically begin when the baby is about three months old. However, cleft palate repair is a bit more complex and could include multiple surgeries over the course of the child’s childhood, up to 18 years of age. These surgeries will begin in infancy at around three months with the second surgery at nine months. Cleft palate surgery reduces the occurrence of fluid buildup in the ears and helps the teeth and facial bones to form properly. It is not uncommon for children with cleft palate to require a bone graft on the upper gum line at around eight years of age. This is often necessary to support the growth of permanent teeth.
Dr. Sawh-Martinez is a highly skilled craniofacial surgeon with the utmost compassion for restoring the function and quality of life to children suffering from cleft lip and palate. Our state-of-the-art facility, Craniofacial & Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, is meticulously appointed to help us care for these incredibly special and delicate cases. To schedule a consultation for your little one, call our Orlando, FL facility at your earliest convenience.
What to Expect
For the first few days following cleft lip or palate surgery, your child may need pain medicine. The areas that were surgically repaired will likely be swollen for up to two weeks afterward and they will most likely be irritable and uncomfortable. If your child has stitches in the roof of their mouth, they will dissolve on their own. Most children suffer from a runny nose following surgery. If congestion occurs, your surgeon may prescribe a nasal spray. In most circumstances, children are back to their happy selves approximately a week after surgery with incisions healing at about one month post operation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will our child be able to eat properly?
Eventually, your child will be able to eat normally. Before and immediately following cleft palate surgery, your child may need help. But with the help of your pediatrician, nurses, and specialists, this will be overcome.
Will our child’s teeth grow normally?
The growth of your child’s teeth will not be affected by their cleft lip or palate. However, it is sometimes recommended that a child with a cleft palate receive a bone graft along their gumline to help support the growth of their permanent teeth. Your team of specialists will help you make informed decisions about this possibility.
Will our insurance provider cover the cost of the surgery?
It is very likely that your insurance provider will cover many of the costs of cleft lip or palate surgery. There are also special agencies intact to help with these specific conditions. If you need more information about covering the costs of these procedures, ask our support staff for assistance. We will be glad to help you.
Why did this happen to my child?
The underlying cause of cleft lift and palate is widely unknown. It is important that you, as the parent, do not feel to blame for the anomaly. While it is suggested that the condition could be genetic, it is still very much a mystery.