Cleft Lip & Palate

For patients and families, living with and correcting a facial or craniofacial disorder can be very stressful. Knowing and understanding this stress, our focus expands beyond physical medical care to a sense of direction, understanding and hope. The face is the focal point of interpersonal communication, our five senses and the ability to speak and swallow. We know that to restore the form and function of the face and palate is to restore the ability to lead a full and normal life. This is the practice to which Dr. Matthew Rontal is devoted. 

The physical and emotional support required to manage cleft and craniofacial disorders involves an entire team of professionals. Dr. Rontal is an active member of the Ian Jackson Craniofacial Clinic at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. The team is as deep, talented and experienced as any in the country, and all specialties of caregivers involved in management of craniofacial disorders are represented. This multi-disciplinary group of experts works together to treat a cleft lip and/or palate and improve your child’s ability to eat, communicate, breath and eventually feel confident about his or her looks. Each child’s unique treatment plan may include surgery, orthodontics and hearing, speech and psychological therapies to restore optimal function and appearance.

Patients and families are generally seen by the entire team once each year to coordinate and update the plan of care. Coordinating care is key for optimizing results and minimizing our interventions. The plan often begins before birth by counseling parents who have learned an expected child is affected. There is no clearly understood cause of clefting and most other craniofacial conditions. Counseling and care of initial needs continues direct after birth. Care in learning to feed a newborn is provided and is generally found to be easier than expected. 

The physical correction of a congenital craniofacial disorder involves intervening in the development of a growing face to bring the facial form and function as close to normal as possible. Most often minimal, if any, signs of residual deformity show in the final result. Our goal is to time interventions for optimal form and function while combining surgical procedures to minimize the number of visits whenever possible. 

Throughout childhood, therapies are offered for speech and language development, as needed. At the Ian Jackson Craniofacial Clinic, our team of experts will review your child’s specific challenges and recommend the appropriate treatment. Our services include but are not limited to:

  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery: Some children with a cleft lip and palate may require plastic and reconstructive surgery on the lip and or cleft palate.
  • Ear, nose and throat surgery: Your child is evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist and offered treatment options for potential hearing problems.
  • Speech therapy: Your child is assessed by our speech therapists to determine any speech and feeding problems and improve speech.
  • Audiology: An audiologist – a specialist in communication disorders as a result of hearing impairments – assesses your child’s hearing to recommend any further treatment.
  • Psychology: In some cases, our mental health specialists will work with your child and family members for any emotional needs or other issues caused by the cleft lip and palate.
  • Orthodontics: Orthodontic care is frequently needed to reposition or straighten teeth. Our care teams include these services in the treatment plans.
  • Prosthodontics: Depending on the severity of the cleft lip and palate, your child may require artificial teeth or other dental appliances to enhance appearance and to help with eating and speaking.

A typical surgical timeline may look like this:

  • One to two months: Placement of ear tubes and orthopedic device for the palate
  • Three months: Cleft lip repair
  • Six to eight months: Cleft palate repair
  • Early adolescence: Likely need for orthodontic braces
  • Teen years: Likely a need for rhinoplasty. Less likely a possible need for correction of jaw position, which is dependent on facial growth.


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