Care and Comfort for Children Born With Clefts
Some children are born with a cleft, or gap, in the lip, palate, or gum line. A gap in the upper gum line is called an alveolar cleft and can be treated successfully with oral surgery to restore oral health and function. Alveolar clefts often occur with children who are born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Dr. Wood, Dr. Coles, Dr. Saghafi, and Dr. Holbrook are experts at managing alveolar cleft cases for both children and their families.
We will provide guidance and support throughout the process so that you and your child have a comfortable and positive experience. If your child was born with an alveolar cleft or you have been referred to an oral surgeon as part of your child’s treatment plan, we invite you to contact Arizona Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons in Tucson and Oro Valley, AZ.
What Is Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?
Cleft lip and palate conditions happen early in the pregnancy. The two sides of a baby’s face usually form separately, then join in the middle. When the two sides of the face don’t join properly, a cleft or split is formed. These spaces in the palate can create a passage between the mouth and the nasal cavity, making eating and speaking normally difficult, if not impossible. Most cleft lip and palate patients can achieve normal facial function and appearance with treatment.
A child may be born with only a cleft lip, only a cleft palate, or both. Treatment should begin within the child’s first few months of life and will continue through childhood and early teenage years until the desired results are achieved. After the treatment journey, many children born with a cleft achieve full functionality and beautiful aesthetic results.
The alveolar bone is a thin layer of bone that makes up the gum ridge or front portion of the roof of the mouth. It is responsible for forming sockets around the roots of upper teeth under the gum tissue. An alveolar cleft is a split in this bony ridge of the upper gum line. This split can prevent teeth and the floor of the nose from developing properly. By repairing an alveolar cleft, we are able to restore proper oral function.
When a child is born, a doctor examines the mouth and will identify a cleft right away. The child will be referred to a cleft lip and palate specialist, who further diagnoses the condition and creates a treatment plan along with a care team. If your child is born with a cleft, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon will likely be a member of your care team.
Why Repair an Alveolar Cleft?
Treating an alveolar cleft helps a child eat properly, improves the appearance of the gums, and contributes to healthy facial growth. A child’s smile is a big part of his or her personality, and repairing a cleft can have a positive impact on self-esteem and confidence. Other reasons for repairing an alveolar cleft include:
- Provide adequate space and a healthy foundation for permanent teeth to erupt
- Stabilize the upper jaw
- Provide support to the nose
Treatment for an Alveolar Cleft
Every child is different, and the specific timeline for your child’s care will be determined by your care team. Typically, preparations for an alveolar bone graft begin when the child is around 5 years old. This can include 3D scans and X-rays of the child’s mouth. Orthodontics will prepare the mouth to ensure there is enough room for adult teeth prior to your surgeon placing an alveolar graft. Orthodontic preparation may include a palatal expansion which widens and aligns the palate. A child usually undergoes the bone graft procedure between the ages of 6 and 10.
During an alveolar bone graft procedure, your oral surgeon will insert a bone graft where the bone is deficient. Anesthesia or sedation will be used to ensure your child’s safety and comfort throughout the procedure. Once the graft has been inserted, your surgeon will place sutures around the surgical site and your child will rest in the office until the anesthesia wears off.
We will schedule follow-up visits as necessary to make sure the surgical sites and bone graft are healing properly. When the bone graft fully heals, permanent teeth will be able to successfully erupt through the alveolar ridge. If any teeth are crooked or unevenly spaced, your child may wear braces to create a beautifully aligned smile.
The Arizona Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons team will provide you with instructions on how to care for your child after oral surgery. If you ever have questions at any stage of your child’s treatment, please contact our office and a member of our staff will be happy to help.
Alveolar Cleft Repair at Arizona Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons
If your child is born with an alveolar cleft, we invite you to schedule an appointment with our oral surgery team. We understand that every parent wants exceptional treatment for their child, and our oral surgeons will be happy to discuss the treatment process with you. Contact our office in Tucson or Oro Valley, AZ, to learn more.
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We’ve been caring for patients in southern Arizona for over 50 years. As board-certified experts, our surgeons bring years of training and expertise to you and your loved ones with the highest standards. Learn more about our office or contact Arizona Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons today to see how we can improve your oral health.