This segment is for the parents or family of a child born with cleft of the lip and palate, an "orofacial" (oral and facial) birth defect. We hope it will be helpful in giving you an insight into what to expect during the development of your child from birth to adolescence, especially relating to the teeth.
Our office has been the orthodontic consultant for the Craniofacial Habilitation Team at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago for almost 40 years. We have lectured and published extensively on the treatment of the cleft lip and palate patient. All this means really is that we've been doing it for a long time, have seen about all there is to see and have treated about every variation that nature can present. The treatment of these patients is indeed a challenge for the patient, the family and the doctors.
Our dental training is mostly based on an understanding of what is "normal" and "ideal." If treating experience teaches us anything, it is that perfection is extremely difficult to attain when dealing every day with the imperfect human being. Perfection, however, is exactly what we will aim toward as we try to reach our "ideal" goals. The more severe the original insult, however the more difficult it is to get close to our goal.
We, and our patients born with cleft lip and palate, young and old, must have realistic expectations. Any patient can only be treated to the maximum of their potential, and the superimposition of a birth defect on an existing genetic pattern and hereditary influence may compromise that potential. From birth to early adulthood, and sometimes later, the habilitation of a cleft lip and palate can require a multitude and constancy of procedures and a financial and time commitment on the part of the family.