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Complications from Cleft Lip

By Dennis Hurwitz on February 16, 2018

four-panel photo collage of pre- and post-surgical cleft lip treatment on a child

Cleft lip is an abnormality of the oral and maxillofacial structures and occurs when the soft tissues of the mouth and lip do not fuse together properly in the womb. This condition is present in approximately one out of every 700 newborn babies. Those born with the condition can have serious complications from cleft lip if left untreated. Fortunately, Dr. Dennis Hurwitz can perform cleft lip and palate repair at The Pittsburgh Center for Plastic Surgery in Pittsburgh, PA. Here, we will explore a few of the most common complications caused by cleft lip.

Feeding Difficulties

Because the roof of the mouth may not be completely formed, infants with cleft lip or cleft palate may be unable to feed properly. Without the fully formed anatomy, babies sometimes have difficulty creating suction to pull milk. This can often be addressed by using specialized bottles that are made for this specific purpose. If you are attempting to breastfeed your child with a cleft lip, a lactation consultant may be helpful. Do not be surprised if your baby coughs or sneezes, or if milk escapes through the nose. This is normal; in most cases, your baby will correct the situation on his or her own.

Speech Development Issues

Due to the nature of cleft lip, there may be a significant reduction in muscle function. Therefore, your child may experience speech or language delay. However, this is more common in individuals with cleft palate. Those with cleft lip usually develop typical speech patterns. However, it is an excellent idea to schedule a visit with a speech therapist, who may simply recommend monitoring your child’s progress throughout their development.

Ear Infections

If your child’s cleft lip is accompanied by a cleft palate, he or she may be at an increased risk of ear infections and hearing difficulties. When typical anatomy is present, the Eustachian tube drains fluid out of the ear and into the back of the nose. A cleft palate may prevent the Eustachian tube from effectively draining, resulting in a buildup of fluid inside the ear. In turn, this can have a negative impact on hearing and can increase your child’s risk for middle ear infections.

Dental and Orthodontic Problems

Due to the skeletal nature of cleft lip and cleft palate, children born with these conditions often require orthodontic treatment, as the teeth may not erupt properly. Additionally, if teeth grow in crowded, food and bacteria can become trapped between them. These hard-to-reach areas are quite difficult to clean. Therefore, it can lead to tooth decay, gingivitis, or gum disease. To combat this, be sure your child attends routine dental exams and cleanings and adheres to a comprehensive at-home oral hygiene regimen.

Psychological Impact

We would be remiss if we did not mention the psychological implications of cleft lip. Although this condition is quite treatable with surgery, children may still experience emotional difficulties once they are around other playmates or classmates. It is important to speak openly with your child about the condition as soon as they are old enough to understand. Make sure they know it is a common issue and be honest with them about the course of treatment necessary to correct it.

Learn More about Treatments for Cleft Lip and Palate

To learn more about the complications of cleft lip and palate, schedule a consultation with Dr. Hurwitz. You can call us at (412) 802-6100 or contact us online anytime.

Our state-of-the-art facility is equipped with the latest technology and amenities to ensure your comfort and privacy during your visit. We are located in the heart of Pittsburgh and serve patients from all over the world. When you are ready to take the next step, contact us to schedule your consultation with Dr. Davila or Dr. Hurwitz. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals of looking and feeling your best.

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