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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are two common but markedly different birth defects that affect about one in every 700 newborns. These developmental deformities occur in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy - cleft lip in week seven and cleft palate in week nine.  Cleft lip and cleft palate occur simultaneously in about half of all cases and separately in approximately a quarter of all cases. 

A cleft lip is essentially a separation of the two sides of the lip. In many cases, this separation will include the bone and gum of the upper jaw. A cleft palate occurs when the sides of the palate fail to “fuse” as the fetus is developing, which results in an opening in the roof of the mouth.

The cleft deformities are categorized according to their location in the mouth and the size of the defect.

Unilateral Incomplete: A cleft on only one side of the mouth that does not extend as far as the nostril.

Unilateral Complete: A cleft on only one side of the mouth that extends into the corresponding nostril.

Bilateral Complete: Larger clefts affecting both sides of the mouth which each extend as far as the nostril.

Microform Cleft: A mild case of cleft lip which may simply form a bump on the lip, or a small scar line extending toward the nostril.

Reasons for cleft lip and cleft palate correction

Cleft lip and cleft palate are highly treatable deformities, though it may take a whole team of different specialists to fully treat the condition. The prognosis for sufferers who receive corrective treatment is excellent: medically, physically, dentally, and emotionally.  There are however, a series of risks for those who do not receive corrective treatment:

  • Speech – Children born with cleft deformity are likely to experience speech problems unless treatment is sought. Speech problems are detrimental to a child’s social and emotional development.
  • Feeding – Babies with a cleft palate or a complete cleft lip have problems drinking milk. The gap means that liquids can pass from the mouth to the nasal cavity. This can be dangerous unless the child is fed sitting upright.
  • Hearing Loss & Frequent Ear Infections – A cleft palate can cause the eustachian tubes (connecting the throat to the ear) to be incorrectly positioned. The fluid build up which results from this poor positioning can lead to painful middle ear infections. Severe and prolonged ear infections can lead to complete hearing loss.
  • Dental Issues – Abnormalities in the upper jaw, gum, or arch can cause teeth to become impacted (unable to erupt) or absent completely. The shape of the mouth might not permit proper brushing which can lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay.

What does cleft lip and cleft palate treatment involve?

Initially, surgeons will work to close the cleft openings in the first six months of the child’s life. Unfortunately, this does not cure the dental problems that occur as a result of cleft lip and cleft palate defects. The dentist will perform a thorough examination of the teeth surrounding the deformity. Panoramic x-rays will generally be taken to allow the dentist to determine the best course of treatment.

The dentist may implant teeth to fill resulting gaps, and/or place braces on the teeth in order to correctly align the upper arch. These treatments will restore functionality to the jaw and improve the aesthetic appearance of the smile. Dental restoration work can generally be performed under local anesthetic and will not require an overnight stay.

If your child was born with any cleft deformity, we strongly encourage you to contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Testimonials.

Read what people are saying about us.

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Testimonials

If you want to know what I think of Dr. Afzali and her staff all you really need to know is that I live in Portland and I fly to San Diego to see Dr. Afzali for all my dental work. That might seem a bit extreme, and perhaps it is, but hear me out before you decide. A couple of years ago when I was living in the Bay Area I had to have one of my front teeth removed and dental implant inserted in its place by a dentist in the Bay Area. The implant looked a little shorter and darker than my other teeth, and even made my gum above it look a bit darker than the adjacent gum. In short, it didn't look natural. So I wasn't completely satisfied with how my smile looked, but I thought that was the best that could be done. It wasn't.

Last summer while I was in San Diego visiting my parents I went to Dr. Afzali for a routine cleaning. She examined my mouth and immediately asked me whether I was happy with the way my implant looked. When I said I wasn't, she explained that she could make it look better and possibly even indistinguishable from my other teeth. She was right. My implant looks just like my other teeth, and my gum is pink again. In fact, my new implant looks so natural that I sometimes forget it's an implant. I couldn't be happier. One final point. Dr. Afazli's entire staff is great. When I walk in they all make me feel like I'm the most important patient they have. And Julie is particularly great. Because I live in Portland my visits to Dr. Afzali's office had to me perfectly timed with receipt of the various parts necessary for my procedures. Julie made sure that everything arrived when necessary, without fail, so that no flights or appointments had to be rescheduled.

Riley P.

Recently, while on a trip from Canada to visit friends in San Diego, I broke a tooth. I phoned RB Dentistry and was given an appointment without delay. Dr. Mary Afzali was reassuring and professional and did an excellent job fixing the broken tooth. Her dental assistant, Marinette, was kind and gentle and made me feel comfortable throughout the procedure. Julie at Reception was welcoming, warm and made me laugh with her wonderful sense of humour and handled the insurance processing with no complications. Thank you so much Dr. Afzali, Mari and Julie for one of the most pleasant dental appointments I've had in a long time! Hope to see you in Vancouver, B.C. sometime!

Pam C.

I know I am in good hands with Dr. Afzali at RB Family Dentistry. The cavity fillings and tooth root fillings I got there were done so well that when I went to the Southwest College Dental Hygenist school to help out a friend, they could barely even detect the fillings! The teachers there were very impressed. At RB Family Dentistry, the staff and hygenists are friendly, organized and very knowledgable, and the Dr. always gives me as much time as I need and answers all of my questions. The office is beautiful and state-of-the-art. They never try to sell me on additional products or services that I don't need.

Scripps Ranch M

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RB Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
16776 Bernardo Center Dr. #105 San Diego, CA 92128
Phone: (858) 485-0044 URL of Map
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