I.I. Onah1, A.C. Okeke2 and N. Folaranmi2

  1. Good Shepherd Specialists Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria
  2. Department of Child Dental Health, University of Nigeria, Enugu, Nigeria


Background: Orthodontists play an integral role in the management of cleft lip and palate anomaly. This study looks at the frequency of anomalies amenable to orthodontics in patients who have had surgery and the effect of early or late
surgical intervention.

Methodology: Patients aged 0-5 years with cleft of the lip and/or palate who were operated on by the plastic surgeon at the Good Shepherd Specialist Hospital, Enugu between 1st July 2011 and 30th June 2014, were recalled after a minimum of five years post-surgery and examined to determine the absence or presence of dental anomalies, amenable to orthodontic treatment, which have arisen since surgical repair. Descriptive statistics and t-test were used for data analysis and significance was at 0.05.

Results: Thirty-one children were operated upon in the period under review. Seventeen had timely (three months or less) lip repair. Seven had timely palate repair (18 months or less). Thirteen patients were successfully recalled, 12 had cleft lip repair while one had cleft palate repair. Repair was timely in 10 (83.3%) of the 12 that had lip repair with a mean frequency of four dental anomalies, while the two (16.7%) that had late repair had a mean frequency of five dental anomalies and this was not statistically significant (P value=0.711). The only isolated cleft palate patient successfully recalled had a late repair. All 13 patients had at least four dental anomalies amenable to orthodontics. Hypoplastic maxilla were the most commonly occurring (eight patients, 61.54%) dental anomaly amenable to orthodontic treatment. None of the patients had a clinically visible supernumerary tooth. Out of 13 patients reviewed, six were males with a mean frequency of four dental anomalies while seven were females, also with a mean frequency of four dental anomalies. This was not significant (P-value=0.553).

Conclusion: There is need for the long term Orthodontic follow up of cleft lip and palate patients. The orthodontic management of dental anomaly should, therefore, be central in the planning and treatment of patients with cleft lip and

Keywords: Cleft lip and palate, Orthodontics


Dr. I.I. Onah
Good Shepherd Specialists Hospital,
Email: anyionah@yahoo.com


Cleft lip and palate is the 2nd most frequent congenital craniofacial deformity with a mean prevalence in Europe of between 1:500 and 1:700.1 A lower value is, however, reported among Africans.2 A study in Enugu, Nigeria reported an incidence of 1:9683. Surgical correction is central to the current team approach to cleft management. An ideal surgical design should proficiently restore functions including speech, mastication, breathing and aesthetics, while at the same time preserving the normal dentofacial growth potential in the involved area. However, surgical repair of cleft lip and palate is fraught with challenges, including those that can be handled by orthodontics. Three principal reasons have been highlighted for carrying out orthodontic treatment in anybody including cleft lip and palate patients:4 to improve the dento-facial appearance, correct occlusal relationship and to eliminate malocclusions that could damage the long-term health of the teeth and periodontium.

Different cleft lip and palate centers and surgeons around the world have suggested many different treatment protocols including timing of surgical intervention; each claiming superiority of its own approach. In all instances, time is usually the judge in proving whether the approaches were truly positive on the dentition, jaw growth or other facial structures.5 It is known that some cleft orthodontic problems are directly related to the cleft deformity itself, such as discontinuity of the alveolar process, missing and malformed teeth, whereas other aspects of the malocclusion are secondary to the surgical intervention performed to repair the lip, nose, alveolar and palatal defects.5 There is also the issue of inappropriate timing of surgical intervention which may also contribute to the severity of these changes. Too early surgical interventions have been reported to impair maxillary growth, whereas with the converse, teeth eruption and Maxillary growth could be permanently endangered.6 In Good Shepherd Specialist Hospital, Enugu where the current study was based, the Mohler’s modification of Millard technique (for unilateral) and Mulliken’s repair (for bilateral) is in common use for lip repair while the intravelarveloplasty is used for palate repair.

To determine the dental anomalies present after a minimum of 5 years in patients surgically treated for cleft lip and palate.

Sequential non-syndromic patients who were operated on, not less than five years ago by the plastic surgeon at the Good Shepherd Specialist Hospital, Enugu from
1st July 2011 to 30th June 2014 and aged 0-5 years as at the time of cleft lip and/or palate repair were selected for review.

From their hospital records they were classified into those who had timely repair and those who did not. Timely lip repair was taken to be repair carried out within three months of birth or less7while timely palate repair was taken to be within 18 months of birth or less.8

Attempt was made via telephone to reach the parents/guardians of these 31 sequential patients. A recall date and time was scheduled for each patient for reexamination.
On presentation, each presenting patient’s case note was brought out from the hospital’s record unit. The patients were then examined clinically using cheek retractors under bright light by a single examiner and the features found were recorded. Not more than five patients were recalled per day to prevent examiner’s fatigue.

Thirty-one children aged 0-5 years were operated in the period under review. Seventeen had timely lip repair. Seven had timely palate repair. Of the 31 children, only 13 were successfully recalled. Two were said to have died, nine had either relocated out of Enugu town or lived far away and so could not make the appointment, while the remaining seven were not traceable.