A cleft lip or a cleft palate is a birth defect. A cleft lip can be a small indentation in the lip or a complete tear which stretches till the base of the nose. A cleft palate can be on both sides of the mouth's roof or on one side only. Occasionally, it can stretch to the full length of the palate.
The cleft lip repair surgical procedure is done when the child is 6-12 weeks old. This prevents the development of any future problems such as a speech impediment. But, the cleft palate repair is performed later when the child is 9 months old or 1 year old. This allows the palate to change as the baby grows. The palate plays an important role in food-tasting, thus, any defect occurring to the palate should be repaired.
For the cleft lip surgical procedure, the child is given a general anesthesia wherein he / she falls asleep and feels no pain. Thereafter, the surgeon trims the tissues and proceeds to sew up the lip. The stitches and the scar are not easily noticeable. And the stitches absorb into the tissue as the scar heals. Hence, they need not be removed later. The palate repair treatment follows the same process as the cleft lip repair treatment. But, during this treatment the tissue from the roof of the mouth may be moved over to cover the soft palate. Along with these two procedures the surgeon also recommends a surgery wherein the tip of the nose is repaired. This surgery is called rhinoplasty (or nose job).
The complete recovery period is 7 weeks and the patient has to stay in the hospital for a period of 5 - 7 days. Certain precautionary measures are advised in order to ensure a safe recovery. For example, children have a habit of picking their wounds; hence, the doctor recommends that the child wear cuffs or splints. Plus, until the wounds heal the doctor recommends a liquid diet.
It is not evident there will be psychological problems as a result of cleft Lip or cleft palate but many issues such as an inferiority complex will most certainly develop. Hence, it is beneficial to perform the surgery early to ensure that he / she has a happy childhood and grows up without any complexes.