Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects.

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When the opening in the roof of the mouth and the upper lip do not develop normally during pregnancy, the result is cleft palate and/or cleft lip. Ultrasonography can sometimes detect a facial deformity such as cleft lip and/or cleft palate during pregnancy. Sometimes diagnosis happens at birth.

While this can be an emotionally upsetting thing for new parents, the good news is that both conditions can be treated with surgery. Today’s medical technology can also mean minimal scarring.

Often cleft lip and cleft palate are random occurrences, but there is also some genetic association with these conditions. The diagnosis is usually made at birth because it is easy to recognize the characteristics:

  • An opening in the lip and the palate.
  • An opening in the lip that can extend from the upper gum and palate into the nasal cavity.
  • An opening in the palate that is not noticeable unless the mouth is open.
  • Sometimes the opening, or cleft, is in the soft tissue and not quickly noticed. Problems with feeding or ear difficulties may be evidence that there is a cleft problem.

Cleft lip and cleft palate can be related to genetics. Native Americans and males have the highest percentage of cleft lip and cleft palate. Those who smoke, have diabetes, or are obese have a higher chance of giving birth to a baby with cleft lip or cleft palate.

If your child is born with cleft lip or cleft palate your baby’s care will revolve around a team of specialists including ear, nose, and throat doctors, pediatricians, oral surgeons, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, and speech and hearing specialists.

This team will determine the best surgery for your baby, depending on the specific situation: cleft lip repair, cleft palate repair, or a combination of both. Follow up surgeries may also be required for the best appearance of the mouth, lip, and nose.
Ear tubes may also be necessary during this process.

Your team will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for your child.


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