Cleft palate or cleft lip is a very common deformity at birth. Across the world, a child with the condition is born every three minutes. Over the years, organizations like Wide Smiles have been making a difference in the lives of kids suffering from this facial deformity— making it possible for them to get access to the best, most reliable cleft lip and palate treatment and care.
Children with a cleft lip will usually have a small slit or opening along the edge of the lip. In some cases, this could also affect the nose or even as far as the gums. Meanwhile, a cleft palate can come in varying sizes. For some, it will only affect the soft palate along the back of the throat but it could also extend into the hard palate and all the way through the front part of the mouth. While a cleft lip will usually not have any accompanying medical issues, a cleft palate is more problematic as it can affect eating, speech, hearing, and a whole range of other issues. Fixing the problem can only be done via surgery.
Importance of early treatment
Early treatment is always recommended for a child with the condition. This is to ensure the restoration of the child’s normal appearance as soon as possible. Treating the condition early on is also useful in minimizing social discomfort as children with this facial deformity may experience social and psychological issues during their formative years.
Cleft repair does not only correct the palate, lip, nose and other facial structures. The team involved in the treatment process will also need to ensure that speech and hearing difficulties that are usually part and parcel of this facial deformity are prevented. A specialized approach is often needed in treating cleft palate to ensure that a child’s overall quality of life is enhanced as best as it possibly can be.
Clefts and speech problems
Clefts often affect the mouth’s soft palate— which movement is crucial when speaking as it prevents the escape of air into the nose. Otherwise, it will be hard for a child to pronounce many speech sounds, making it difficult for them to understand by others. For instance, in the English language, most oral sounds require the soft palate closing the mouth. This is something that children affected by clefts can do. Through cleft repair, the space along the soft palate will be surgically fixed so the child with the condition can now close it more easily.
Speech surgery and therapy
There are instances where children may still require additional surgery after undergoing cleft repair. This is especially true for kids with a cleft palate where additional surgery is needed to help improve their speech.
On top of that, many of these kids will also require the guidance of an expert by undergoing rigorous speech therapy. This is best initiated by a well-experienced cleft palate and lip speech pathologist. If after the course the speech pathologist will find that the child seems to have a hard time performing certain sounds or if the child doesn’t seem to have the crucial structure to make these sounds, additional surgery may be recommended.
Additional surgical intervention is usually performed when the child is between 3-5 years old to ensure that when it is time for them to enter school, they will have already learned how to make the necessary sounds. Surgery is less intensive than the actual cleft repair and will depend on what oral architecture the child does and doesn’t have. This is where a highly trained and experienced surgeon and speech therapist come into play. It will be their job to plan the speech operation. Speech therapy will also resume after the speech surgery has been performed so the child will know how to use their surgically constructed palate.
Speech therapy and surgery are crucial parts on cleft lip and palate repair. While they may not always necessary, it is crucial that they’re only performed by the right experts in the event that there is a need for them. Wide Smiles helps you connect with the right cleft lip and palate surgeons and experts so you are confident that your child will be handled by only the best in the industry.