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New Device May Eliminate Surgery for Cleft Palates - featured October 7, 2010

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Children who would otherwise endure numerous painful surgeries to repair a cleft palate may one day be able to rely on a new Canadian invention that can expand the upper jaw and smooth the lip -- no operation required.

About one in 700 babies is born with a cleft palate in North America, and most are treated successfully with a combination of surgery, dental work and speech therapy, among other treatments.

But patients often require a painful procedure that involves breaking and expanding the bones of the upper jaw and sewing them back together. This procedure can mean weeks of a patient living with his or her jaw wired shut.

But a new device worn inside the mouth -- invented by researchers at the University of Alberta -- gradually stretches the upper jaw over a period of six to nine months.

Work with prototypes suggests that if children begin wearing it at the age of seven, their jaws could grow and stretch at the same time, eliminating the need for surgery.

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Tags: News of the Week Cleft Palate Newsletter 8 October 2010