Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy. Cleft lip and cleft palate can each occur independent of each other or in conjunction. A baby’s head begins development during early pregnancy. Structures from each side of the head grow toward the center of the face and join together. When a cleft lip happens, the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely. It can be a small or large opening that in some cases goes through the lip. A cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth does not join completely during pregnancy. In some cases the whole palate is open, in others only part of the palate is open. Along with affecting appearance of the face, cleft lip and cleft palate can present difficulty when eating, speech impediments, ear infections and misaligned teeth.
Correction of cleft lift and palate is possible through surgery usually between the ages of 3-6 months old. Surgery to repair a cleft palate is recommended within the first 18 months. Depending on the severity of the defect, many children will need additional surgical procedures as they get older. With treatment, most children with cleft lip and palate do well and lead a healthy normal life. Talk with your physician and dentist for an examination and more information if you suspect cleft lip and palate.

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