Surgical Treatment for Cleft Palate

Cleft palate, or separation of the roof of the mouth (palate), is a treatable birth defect which occurs during the early development of the fetus. In normal development, separate areas of the face are formed individually and then join together. A cleft palate occurs when the tissues of the roof of the mouth does not form together properly. In some instances, clefting of the palate can affect the nasal passage as well.

The palate has an extremely important role during speech; when you talk, the palate prevents air from blowing out of your nose, instead of your mouth. The palate is also very important when eating, because it prevents food and liquids from going up into the nose.

Some of the presentations and side effects of cleft palate are:

  • Problems with feeding
  • Problems with speech
  • Malformed appearance
  • Ear infections
  • Change in nose shape
  • Poorly aligned teeth
  • Failure to gain weight due to improper feeding

Cleft palate can appear by itself or along with other deformities such as cleft lip. It is not yet understood why malformations of the palate occur. Scientists tend to believe clefts are a result of a combination of these environmental and genetic factors:

  • A parent, sibling or relative with a cleft
  • Certain medications that the mother took while pregnant, such as those prescribed for anti-seizure and acne
  • Exposure of the fetus to viruses and chemicals while in the early developmental stage

The Best Timing for Cleft Palate Surgery 

Cleft palate surgery is frequently performed by an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The first corrective surgery is usually done when the child is between seven and eighteen months of age. The goal of cleft palate surgery is to close the separation, restore muscle function and ensure that the palate is long enough to function properly.

A second surgery is done on the cleft hard palate between the ages of 8 and 12 when the cuspid teeth begin to develop. Also known as canine teeth, cuspids are the only sharp, pointed teeth in the mouth. The procedure involves placement of bone from the hip into the bony defect of the hard palate and closure of the communication from the nose to the gum tissue in three layers. It may also be performed in teenagers and adults as an individual procedure or combined with corrective jaw surgery.

Even though a cleft may be surgically repaired in a single procedure, treatment for a child born with a cleft continues through adolescence and sometime even adulthood. As a child grows, additional plastic surgery procedures may be required to improve function and appearance.

No-Obligation Consultation

Schedule a no-obligation consultation about cleft palate surgery with Face and Jaw Surgery Center at one of our four, convenient North Dakota locations. Our surgeons are specially trained in oral and maxillofacial surgery and have performed many corrective, cleft palate procedures. They can evaluate your child’s needs and recommend the most effective treatment plan for the best functional and aesthetic results.

Face and Jaw Surgery Center serves all of North Dakota and North West Minnesota including Moorhead, MN and East Grand Forks, MN.

Bismarck, ND office

Fargo, ND office

Grand Forks, ND office

Minot, ND office