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What is a Cleft Palate?


A cleft is an opening in the palate that can be present at birth. However, it can also occur due to trauma, disease or surgery. For example, in some cases, oral cancer treatment entails surgery that requires removing part of the palate. When the palate is properly formed, it moves in various positions when you speak, helping you enunciate property without excessive nasal tones, and when you eat or drink, to prevent liquid and food from going into your nose when you swallow. With a cleft palate, these everyday actions are effected, as can be the formation and position of the teeth. We can help restore function with a cleft palate obturator in Naperville.


Treating Cleft Palate

Surgery is often successful in closing the palate but, at times, a cleft palate obturator is necessary to completely cover the opening. An obturator is an oral prosthesis. We make a mold of your mouth and then construct the device out of plastic or metal. An obturator can also be used if the opening in the palate recurs after surgery or, in certain cases, as an alternative to surgery or as a temporary measure until surgery is appropriate.

An obturator is recommended for infants with a cleft palate because proper feeding is essential for normal development. For adults and children, the prosthesis makes it easier to eat and swallow, so they can get adequate nutrition. It also aids in clear communication and helps reduce the anxiety that speech impairment can cause.

If all or some of the palate was removed as a result of trauma or surgery, at the time of surgery, an obturator may be immediately placed. Ten to 14 days later, the initial prosthesis is typically replaced with a transitional one that can be modified until the site heals. This transitional phase can last two to 24 months. Once healing is complete, a long term obturator is then created and positioned over the opening.

What Happens After the Obturator is Placed?

It can take time to adjust to the prosthesis because it’s placed in the area of the mouth involved in eating, drinking and speaking. However, once you get acclimated to it, you’ll notice a big improvement in your ability to speak and swallow. To keep the obturator clean, simply brush it with mild soap and water when you brush and floss your teeth. In addition to your custom obturator, treatment also entails physical and/or speech therapy, as well as dietary counseling.

As an American board-certified prosthodontist, Dr. LaVacca is experienced in treating conditions of the entire oral cavity, beyond just your teeth. He can provide you with an obturator to help you speak, eat, smile and laugh with confidence and comfort. Book an appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists today to learn more. Request a visit online or by calling us at (630) 848-2010.

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