A cleft lip is a common birth defect in which there is a split or opening in the upper lip. It is caused by a failure of facial tissues to close completely and properly during fetal development. Cleft palate is a similar condition that affects the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur separately or together. They may also be symptoms of a congenital syndrome, but they usually occur as isolated defects. A tendency to develop these conditions can run in some families.
What are the Symptoms?
A cleft lip can be unilateral, which means the split develops on one side of the face. It can also be bilateral, in which there are splits on both sides of the face. The condition can vary in severity from a relatively small notch in the lip to a cleft that extends all the way up to the infant’s nose.
Depending on the severity of the cleft, a child with a cleft lip will likely have speech and dental problems. Children with this condition are more likely to have missing, malformed, extra or misplaced teeth, and they are more prone to cavities.
Who Treats Cleft Lips?
A child with a cleft lip will likely need a team of specialists to handle the associated medical and dental problems. Our talented plastic surgeon can repair the lip and/or palate. Oral surgeons and orthodontists can treat any accompanying jaw or dental problems. A speech pathologist can evaluate any speech or feeding problems, and a speech therapist can help the child improve their speech.
A child who also has a cleft palate will need even more help. For example, a cleft palate increases the risks of developing ear infections and even hearing loss, so the child may need care from an otolaryngologist.
What Does Treating a Cleft Lip Involve?
Cleft lips always need to be repaired surgically. The exact procedure will depend on the severity of the cleft, and on whether the child also has a cleft palate. If the child has just a cleft lip, they may need one or two surgeries; a child that also has a cleft palate may need multiple operations.
There are several surgical techniques that can be used to repair a cleft lip. During a consultation at the office of Dr. Steven Warnock, MD in Draper, you can learn more information about these techniques. Regardless of the method used during surgery, the main goal is to give the patient a more normal appearance and improved function. Dr. Warnock proudly serves the Salt Lake City and surrounding Utah areas. Contact his office today to schedule your appointment.