Introduction: Alveolar bone grafting between the ages of nine years to eleven years is a routine procedure for children with a cleft involving the alveolus. It is believed to encourage dental development and subsequent treatment within the region of the cleft and to improve nasolabial aesthetics. The aims of this article are to review the literature as to its impact on dental development and subsequent treatment, nasolabial aesthetics and the nasal airway.

Methods: An electronic search was conducted using Medline and Embase, with no restriction as to date of publication, study designor language.

Results: The results suggest that secondary alveolar bone grafting when carried out at the appropriate time has significant benefits and for subsequent dental treatment, often allows space closure of adjacent teeth and eliminating the need for a prosthesis. Although it has an effect of nasolabial aesthetics it is equivocal as to whether this improves nasolabial aesthetics or merely improves the likelihood of aesthetic improvement of subsequent nasal surgery. Nasal obstruction is a significant issue in patients with cleft lip and palate with
smaller nasal volume and mean cross-sectional area. It would appear that there is a reduction in the growth of the airway after an age that approximates to the timing for secondary alveolar grafting, although there are no studies that can refute or confirm its actual impact.

Conclusions: Alveolar bone grafting between the ages of 9 – 11 years appears to produce clear benefits in terms of dental development and subsequent dental treatment. Its impact on nasolabial aesthetics appear equivocal as although there are changes in some landmarks post-surgery it is unclear as to whether these changes produce a benefit in terms of aesthetics for the patient.