Approximately 1 in every 500-700 children is born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both, worldwide. Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth. They happen when the tissues that form the roof of the mouth and upper lip don’t join properly before birth resulting in a gap. This can affect the way the child’s face looks. It can also lead to difficulties in breathing, eating, talking, ear infections and psychological problems.
Children born with a cleft palate have a defect in the upper alveolar (tooth bearing) region. Conventionally, this has been treated with bone graft surgery, harvesting bone from the patient’s rib or hip. A potential downside of this is that it involves an additional surgery incurring undesirable scars and increases blood loss, hospital stay, recovery time and pain. It also may not be a viable option in instances where the patient’s overall bone quality is poor or when a large volume of bone is required.
A recent and revolutionary invent, rhBMP-2 (recombinant human Bone Morphogenetic Protein), is successfully used to treat jaw bone defects at Balaji Dental and Craniofacial Hospital. This is a genetically engineered version of a protein that is normally found in the body. Dr. S.M. Balaji is credited to be the first to introduce this novel technology in India.
The inclusion of rhBMP-2 at the bone deficient site stimulates the body’s stem cells to rapidly produce new bone and promotes growth ultimately healing the bone defect. The need for additional bone graft surgery, unaesthetic scars, pain or discomfort at the donor site is overcome. rhBMP-2 now ensures superior results to the conventional alveolar bone grafting techniques by allowing alveolar cleft closure at a younger age of 3 to 4 years rather than waiting till 7 to 8 years. This technology has greatly improved the quality of life of innumerable people, more importantly children, afflicted with jaw bone defects.