During the early stages of fetal development, the right and left sides of the lip and roof of the mouth normally grow together. In a small number of cases, the lip does not come together normally, and the result can be a cleft lip on one or both sides. A unilateral or bilateral cleft of the lip can be a problem both from a cosmetic standpoint as well as a functional standpoint. A cleft can affect early nursing and feeding. The cleft lip repair is usually done at about 3 months of age. The roof of the mouth, known as the palate, can also be clefted on one or both sides. This may occur independently or occur with a cleft lip. A cleft of the palate can be a functional problem with food regurgitating up into the nose and also can cause significant problems with speech. The cleft palate is repaired at about 12 months to 18 months of age. It is not unusual to require revisionary surgery at a later date to improve speech or the appearance of the scars. In some cases, oral surgery is needed to surgically realign the jaws.
All three of the physicians at GBPSA correct clefts of both the lip and palate. They are all members of the Cleft Team at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, WI. This team has been caring for patients with clefts for more than 20 years. The cleft palate team consists of multiple specialists that address the patient from several aspects including plastic surgery, pediatrics, dentistry, oral surgery, otolaryngology, speech therapy, genetic counseling and social services. The team approach helps coordinate the numerous modalities needed to address the various problems seen at birth through adolescence.