A cleft palate is one of the most common congenital disabilities. It occurs when a child is born with a gap in the roof of their mouth. The palate is divided into two sections: the hard palate (in the front of your mouth) and the soft palate (in the back of your mouth). Fortunately, this disorder can easily be treated with surgery. Read on to learn more about treating cleft palate with surgery.

Causes of Cleft Palate

The gap or split in a child’s upper lip or palate happens when fragments that form the mouth fail to merge fully when the fetus is developing. According to the National Library of Medicine, this disorder can be an isolated case or part of various chromosomal, teratogenic, and Mendelian syndromes.

  • Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy
  • Excess body weight during pregnancy
  • Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy
  • Use of anti-seizure medication and steroid drugs during pregnancy

Repairing a Cleft Palate Through Surgery

Surgery is the only effective way to cover the gap in the roof of your child’s mouth or upper lip. This is a delicate procedure that will take several hours. After the surgery, your child may be required to stay in hospital for one to three days under close supervision of the doctor to ensure that they don’t develop complications.

You should start preparing your baby for the surgery at least two weeks in advance. In this period, your child shouldn’t take aspirin or ibuprofen to avoid excessive bleeding during and after the surgery. The surgeon will also ask about the baby’s medical history to determine if they’re suitable for the surgery.

On the day of the surgery, you can breastfeed or give your baby formula at least six hours before the surgery. After that, your baby shouldn’t be fed or given semi-liquids until after the surgery. But they can have small amounts of clear liquids up to two hours before the surgery. This surgery is performed under general anesthesia to keep the baby comfortable.

The procedure involves placing a brace into the child’s mouth to keep it open and making incisions along the cleft on each side of the palate and along the gums. This will loosen the tissue attached to the hard palate, allowing the surgeon to stretch it toward the middle of the palate. The inner layer of the tissue will be closed with stitches, while the incisions along the gums will be left open.

The outer layer of the tissue will also be closed with dissolving sutures and left to heal. If the cleft extends to the child’s gum and upper jaw, the two should be repaired when the child is seven or eight years old. Please note that the cleft lip should be repaired before the cleft palate.