When the two sides of the face do not join together properly in utero, a split in the lip and/or roof of the mouth can occur. This split is known as a cleft lip or cleft palate, and it is one of the most common birth defects. A team of specialists is usually involved in a cleft lip or palate repair, including an oral surgeon, dentist, a pediatrician. Depending on the child’s age, a speech pathologist may also be involved to help them establish proper articulation.

At Carolinas Centers for Oral & Facial Surgery, we have a team of skilled oral and maxillofacial surgeons specializing in cleft and craniofacial surgeries. We use advanced technology, surgical techniques, and 3D virtual surgical planning to deliver natural-looking results. Explore your treatment options for complex craniofacial needs.

Surgical Treatment

Newborns and infants with a cleft lip or palate often have feeding difficulties as a result of their cleft. Special bottles and other tools can help, but surgical repair is necessary to correct the cleft once the child is old enough to undergo the procedure. Every cleft is different: a child may only have a cleft lip, or only a cleft palate, or both. The severity of the cleft varies too. The number of surgical procedures necessary to repair the cleft will depend on the extent of the child’s condition.

In general, a cleft lip is a simpler surgical procedure than a cleft palate, although both conditions can be corrected successfully. A child with a cleft lip will undergo one or two surgeries, with the first surgery around 3–6 months of age. The goal of a cleft lip repair is to correct the split in the lip to enhance function and facial esthetics.

Repairing a cleft palate is a more involved procedure, with the first surgery taking place between the ages of 6–12 months. Once the facial structures have developed more, around age 8, another surgery takes place to increase bone quantity in the upper jaw. More surgeries may be recommended as the child develops.

There are three main choices for anesthesia

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia provides numbness directly where it is administered. It does not affect consciousness, so the patient remains awake while the feelings of discomfort are eliminated. Local anesthesia is commonly used for minor procedures.

Nitrous Oxide

Also known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a mild sedative that the patient inhales to alleviate feelings of anxiety. It does not cause the patient to lose consciousness. It is often used together with local anesthesia.

IV Sedation

IV sedation is commonly used for moderate to extensive oral or facial surgery procedures. This type of sedation is administered directly into the patient’s vein. Since amnesia (forgetfulness) is a common side effect of the medication, most patients who use IV sedation do not remember their procedure.

We’re Here For You

We are here to help you and your child and to offer the best possible care and treatment. To learn more about cleft and craniofacial surgery at the Carolinas Centers for Oral & Facial Surgery, contact us at (704) 799-3555 and schedule a consultation with our compassionate team.