Roughly 1 in every 1,600 children are born with a cleft lip, nose, gums, or palate. While extremely rare, a cleft palate is a serious problem that can affect feeding and other forms of development. In the past, children with cleft palates have had to undergo many surgeries between birth and adulthood. Nasoalveolar molding, also called NAM, is a technique that greatly reduces the number of procedures needed to correct cleft-related issues.
A NAM device is an orthodontic device placed in the mouth that assists in the shaping and positioning of the nose and lips. An orthodontic surgeon places the appliance in your baby’s mouth and greatly improves the results for a child struggling with a cleft that affects one or both sides of their mouth.
During the procedure to have a NAM device placed, your pediatric dentist will take a mold of your baby’s mouth to ensure that the appliance is perfectly fit. Once the NAM device is crafted, your baby will wear the device indefinitely until it’s time to make adjustments. Each week, your orthodontist will make slight adjustments to the NAM appliance until the cleft has reduced to roughly 5 millimeters. At this point, the doctor introduces a wire with an acrylic tip that fits in your child’s nose, along with surgical tape that pulls the appliance down towards the nose. In conjunction, these items help to shape your baby’s nose, improve appearance, and prepare them for corrective surgery.
The length of time your baby wears a NAM device will depend on the severity of their cleft condition. Children with unilateral clefts typically wear a NAM appliance for about 3 months, whereas a bilateral cleft can take double that (up to six months).
As parents, we want to ensure that our children experience as little discomfort as possible and one of the best parts about a NAM device is that they’re not painful! As with any dental appliance, there can be an adjustment period, but many parents relay that their babies appear happier while wearing the device as it can make feeding easier.
Taking care of a NAM appliance is fairly simple, but requires vigilance on the part of the parent or caregiver. Once your baby begins wearing a NAM device, it’s important that the device is cleaned and that the tape is replaced regularly. One of the biggest hurdles of choosing the NAM technique is making time for weekly dental check-ins. While your baby’s mouth and face begin shifting, they may also experience mild skin and mouth irritation. Your orthodontist can help advise you on the best treatment options.
Once your orthodontist is satisfied with the shape and size of the cleft, your baby will undergo surgery that will close their cleft and reshape their nose. Dr. Parris takes the greatest care in minimizing incisions and takes the least invasive approach possible, ensuring your child gets the best results possible with the least amount of discomfort.
The best way to determine if a NAM device can help your child is by visiting Dr. Parris at his office near Memphis, TN for a consultation. As one of the most experienced orthodontic surgeons in the South, he and his compassionate team can help your family achieve their best and brightest smiles. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
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