Cleft Lip & Palate

The palate is the roof of your mouth, which is made up of bone and muscle and is covered by a thin, wet skin, or mucosa, that forms the red covering inside of the mouth. The palate separates your nose from your mouth and plays an important role in speech and eating by preventing air from blowing out of your nose instead of your mouth and food from going into the nose.

A cleft palate happens when there is an opening in the roof of the mouth. It can range from an opening at the back of the soft palate to a nearly complete separation of the roof of the mouth.

A completely formed lip is important for facial appearance and for forming certain sounds made during speech. A cleft lip is a condition that creates an opening in the upper lip between the mouth and nose. It can range from a slight notch in the colored portion of the lip to complete separation in one or both sides of the lip, extending up and into the nose.

Cleft Lip Treatment

Cleft lip surgery is commonly performed when the child is about 10 years old. The goal of this surgery is to close the separation, restore muscle function, and provide a normal shape to the mouth. Nostril deformity may be improved as a result of the procedure or may require a subsequent surgery.

Cleft Palate Treatment

A cleft palate is generally treated with surgery when the child is between 7 to 18 months old. This depends on the individual child and their own situation. For example, if the child has other associated health problems, the surgery might be delayed. The goals of this surgery is to close the gap between the roof of the mouth and the nose, reconnect the muscles, and extend the palate to establish proper palatal function.

The cleft hard palate is generally repaired between the ages of 8 and 12 years of age. This procedure involves placement of bone from the hip into the bony defect and closure of the communication from the nose to the gum tissue. It may also be performed in teenagers and adults as an individual procedure or combined with corrective jaw surgery.