Cleft Lip & Palate Complications – Houston, TX

Why Treatment Is So Vital

As a new or expecting parent, you have a lot of worries on your plate, but the biggest concern shared by parents is that their child will not be healthy. While only one in a thousand children are born with cleft lip or palate, this malformation of the oral and facial structures can lead to significant concern as your child develops. Many parents worry about their child’s appearance, but aesthetics is not the only concern. Left untreated, there are a number of serious cleft lip and palate complications for our Houston, TX patients. This page discusses some of the complications that come along with cleft lip and palate and how treatment from your oral surgeons in Houston at Piney Point Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery may be able to prevent them. Contact us to find out more about cleft palate and lip and how we can help.

Feeding Difficulties

Infant with cleft lip and palate having difficulty breastfeeding

The palate, the roof of the mouth, plays an important role in the feeding process for infants whether you choose to bottle or breastfeed. There may be either a partial or complete cleft in the palate, and the infant may find it extremely difficult to feed because the child cannot produce enough suction to take in the breastmilk or baby formula. A Houston oral surgeon may be able to repair this problem within the first year or two of a baby’s life, depending on the child’s health, facial structure development, and individual needs.

Speech and Language Problems

Mother and infant laughing together

Cleft lip and palate can cause a decrease in muscle function, which in turn can make it difficult for children to learn to speak properly. The malformation of the lip and palate may extend to the development of teeth and function of the jaw, leading kids to struggle to clearly form certain sounds, or there may be delays in learning to speak at all. A speech therapist may be able to help with such issues to a degree, but a consultation with an oral surgeon in Houston, who may be able to repair the cleft lip and palate, is also recommended. Someone with a cleft lip or palate may also have an overly nasal voice. This occurs because the palate does not properly separate the mouth from the nose, allowing air to escape through the nose during speech. Work with speech therapists and additional dental or medical interventions may be necessary to improve your child’s ability to communicate.

Ear Infections and Hearing Loss

Doctor checking baby's ears

Ear infections are quite common in children with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. The ear tissue may become infected or inflamed due to improperly angled Eustachian tubes, which connect the sinuses and nasal area to the ears. The improper angle of the eustachian tubes allows food and other substances to seep into the ear, leading to repeated ear infections. The infections, in turn, may lead to a degree of hearing loss.

The most common type of hearing loss in children with cleft palate is known as glue ear, wherein a sticky fluid builds up in the middle ear. The buildup stops sound from passing from the middle ear to the inner ear, which can lead to partial deafness. Glue ear is usually temporary and can occur in children both with and without cleft palate, but it often persists for much longer in children with cleft palate. If your child complains of ear pain or shows signs of hearing loss, you should schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) right away.

Dental Problems

Child with dental problems from cleft lip and palate pouring soup in bowl

Improper tooth development is very common in children who have cleft lip or cleft palate. Due to abnormalities in the facial structures of children with clefts, teeth may not be able to erupt in the ideal position. The teeth may come in misaligned and require orthodontic treatment later on, or the palate may be too narrow, which can cause severe underbite and other issues with the alignment of your bite.

Addressing Cleft Lip and Palate Complications

Oral surgeon treating cleft lip and palate

If your child has cleft lip and/or cleft palate, we hope you’ll bring them to see your Houston oral surgeons for a consultation right away. At Piney Point Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we have the expertise and experience required to address such issues and enable children to enjoy an improved appearance and a reduced risk for the abovementioned complications. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we may be able to help your child. We also take a team approach to treating clefts, so we’ll work with other local specialists to ensure your child gets the full spectrum of care they need to lead a healthier life.