Nasoalveolar molding, or NAM, is a nonsurgical therapy performed on infants with cleft lip or cleft palate conditions. Invented by craniofacial orthodontist Dr. Barry Grayson, this technique focuses on preparing an infant’s facial and oral structures for surgery by reducing the size of the cleft deformity.
Dr. Celeste Block is the only orthodontist in the Metairie, Louisiana, area who performs nasoalveolar molding. While many orthodontists treat cleft lip and palate deformities, Dr. Block is the only one who performs NAM therapy on infants.
When your child requires special care, you want to be in the hands of the most skilled professionals. You can be confident that when you visit Old Metairie Orthodontics, you and your family will receive compassionate and beneficial care every step of the way.
Benefits of NAM
Pre-surgical molding has changed cleft lip and palate repair by making the deformity less severe prior to surgery. Previously, a child with a large cleft might require many surgeries from birth up until the age of 18. With NAM, a specialized orthodontist can reduce large clefts before any surgery takes place, making the surgical journey easier for both the child, parents, and care team. Other benefits of NAM include:
- Nonsurgical and noninvasive way to prepare infants for surgical cleft repair
- Reduces the gap, or cleft, in the upper lip
- Can decrease the number of surgeries your child needs to fully repair the cleft because NAM makes the cleft less severe
- NAM contributes to better outcomes for children born with clefts
How Nasoalveolar Molding Works
NAM therapy begins within the first few weeks after the child is born, and continues until the child is ready for surgical cleft repair. Every child is different and treatment time varies, but the majority of cases undergo NAM therapy for about 3 to 6 months. During the first few months of life, the shape of the baby’s gums and nose have softer tissues and are easier to mold.
Dr. Block starts by inserting a mouthpiece that covers the roof of the child’s mouth, similar to a retainer. This mouthpiece is custom made for every child and held in place by rubber bands or taped to the cheeks. Your orthodontist will adjust the mouthpiece every few weeks. Meanwhile, the mouthpiece narrows any clefts and repositions soft tissue into the proper place.
Once the cleft has become smaller, an extension is added to lift and shape the child’s nose. Gradually, the nasal stent will adjust the nose into the most functional position and aesthetically pleasing shape.
The molding plate and nasal stent do not cause pain or discomfort. NAM uses a passive molding technique, which does not push or stretch delicate tissues like other pre-surgical methods. Many babies feel better while undergoing NAM therapy because it provides a solid surface in the mouth for the baby to press a bottle’s nipple against during feeding. The mouthpiece also prevents the baby from pushing the tongue into the cleft and causing damage.
After molding is complete and the cleft is significantly easier to manage, the child will undergo surgery to close the gap and reconnect tissues and muscles.
The Area’s Only Orthodontic NAM Provider
Dr. Celeste Block trained in NAM during her orthodontic residency at the University of Tennessee. She is the only orthodontist in the state of Louisiana that treats infants with NAM. Dr. Block is a member of the Ochsner Hospital for Children Cleft and Craniofacial Team. This multidisciplinary clinic treats patients with cleft and craniofacial anomalies. The NAM treatment is coordinated with the Pediatric Craniofacial Plastic Surgeon on the Team.
This technique can greatly benefit children born with cleft deformities by leading to more comfortable treatment and better surgical outcomes. If your child is born with a cleft and you would like to learn more about your options for treatment, we invite you to contact our practice in Metairie, LA, today.