Cleft Lip and Palate

What is Cleft Lip and Palate?

Cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth anomalies in the world.

Cleft lip and palate is a congenital condition which happens in the first three months of pregnancy. It affects the upper lip and the hard and soft palate of the mouth. A cleft occurs when the parts which make up the lip and palate fail to fuse properly.

Cleft lip and palateThe type and severity of a cleft will vary from child to child.

A child is born with cleft lip and palate approximately every two and a half minutes somewhere in the world, according to the US Census Bureau.

Despite extensive research about cleft lip and palate, its causes are still unknown.

The condition can affect a child’s appearance, speech, teeth, eating, hearing and ability to develop socially.

Cleft lip and palate can be successfully treated using a comprehensive team approach.

Our partners provide local, multidisciplinary care so that children can be socially accepted into their community and lead a productive life.

In developing nations, multidisciplinary cleft lip and palate treatment is often lacking.

We aim to close this gap in cleft care.

Cleft Lip and Palate Care

Beyond a Single Surgery


Newborn Care

At your child’s first visit to your Children’s Craniofacial Team, the Children’s pediatric orthodontist will take a mold of your infant’s mouth to have a NAM appliances fabricated. Each week, the orthodontist will reshape the plate, reducing your child’s cleft and reshaping his facial features. The NAM device reduces the number of surgeries required during a patients lifetime, which in turn reduces facial scarring, trauma, inconvenience and cost involved in additional surgeries.

Surgery to repair a cleft lip

Surgery to repair cleft lip is most often done when your child is 6 months old. During surgery, the skin, muscle and lining of the lip are put in the proper place. The nose is also treated at the time of the first surgery, but often needs another small surgery as your child grows. Most often, surgery takes about 3 hours

Surgery to repair a cleft palate

If your child has a cleft palate, surgery is usually done when your child is between 9 and 15 months. During cleft palate surgery, the cleft is closed. Muscles at the back of the roof of the mouth (soft palate) are put in their proper place across the cleft. The goal is to create a palate that works well for speech.

Alveolar bone graft for upper jaw clefts

Many children with cleft lip and cleft palate also have a cleft in the bone of the upper jaw that holds the teeth. This bone is called the alveolus. An alveolar bone graft is a surgery to fill the gap in that bone. Your child will probably need orthodontic treatment for several months to prepare for surgery.

Dental and orthodontic treatment

Your child is likely to need orthodontic treatment to align teeth if their cleft affects the gum line (the hard palate) or the back of the roof of the mouth (soft palate). Orthodontic treatment helps prepare your child if they need surgery for a cleft in the part of the jaw that holds the teeth. At 12 to 18 years, your child has final orthodontic treatment to correct their bite and align their teeth. For some children, this will include surgery on the jaws.