Treatment in Lincoln for Cleft Lip and Palate

Orthodontic treatments for patients born with complex medical issues are more intricate than conventional orthodontics. Dr. Willett at Lincoln Orthodontics has been actively involved in treating special needs and complex cases throughout her career.

What is a Cleft Lip and Palate?

Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial malformations in which the parts of the face that form the upper lip and mouth remain split, instead of sealing together before birth. Similar splits can occur in the roof of the mouth, or palate. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area and the tissue that is available does not join together properly. While the defect occurs in early fetal development, in most cases, the cause is unknown. However, there appears to be a link between genetics and maternal environmental exposures during pregnancy.

While there are certainly aesthetic considerations associated with cleft lip and palate, having this birth defect can affect people in many more serious ways.

  • Difficulty Eating – When there is a separation or opening in the palate, food and liquids can pass from the mouth back through the nose. While waiting for surgery, patients can use specially designed prosthetics to help keep fluids flowing downward towards the stomach, ensuring that they receive adequate nutrition.
  • Speech Difficulties – Because the upper lip and palate are not properly formed, it may be difficult for children to speak clearly, and when they do, it may produce a nasal sound. As speech may be hard to understand, a speech pathologist may be used to resolve these issues.
  • Ear Infections – Cleft lip and palate can lead to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, leaving children at a higher risk for ear infections, and if not properly treated, even deafness. To prevent infections, small tubes may be placed in the eardrums to facilitate fluid drainage.
  • Dental Problems – Children who suffer from cleft lip and palate also often have missed, malformed, or displaced teeth, leading to a higher number of cavities and other dental and orthodontic issues.


Lincoln treatment for cleft lip and palate is most likely surgery, and this is where Dr. Willett, your craniofacial orthodontist and a team of specialists come in. Depending on the severity of the case, more than one surgery may be necessary. In children, surgery usually takes place between three and six months of age.

Occasionally, children born with a cleft lip will have a notch on their front gum that might require bone graft surgery to correct. This surgery will be a collaborative effort between Dr. Willett and cleft surgeons.

Your child’s face and jaw will continue to grow and develop as they grow older. Some children who are born with a cleft lip or palate could need jaw alignment surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery. This can help correct their bite and make sure their teeth and jaws are positioned correctly. Dr. Willett will work closely with other members of your cleft lip and palate treatment teams, such as your surgeons, speech and language therapists, and clinical psychologists. Dr. Willett will attend the MDT meetings to ensure that you’re well prepared for surgery and that your child receives the best pre and post-operative care to maximize the benefit you receive from orthognathic surgery.

Contact us today to learn more about treatment with Lincoln Orthodontics for patients with cleft palate, cleft lip, and other genetic abnormalities.