Cleft Lip & Palate

As a child’s face is developing during the early stages of pregnancy, separate facial areas develop then join together. This process happens in the left and right sides of the lips and roof of the mouth. If the sections don’t form together, then it results in a cleft palate and/or cleft lip. An opening is left in the upper lip, between the nose and mouth.

The severity of the condition can range from a small notch in the lip to a full separation on one or both sides of the lip. When one side of the lip is affected, it is called a unilateral cleft. When both sides are affected, it is called a bilateral cleft.

Not only is full lip formation important for a natural facial appearance, but it is also necessary for the child to eat and form certain sounds while talking.

Cleft Palate vs. Cleft Lip

“Palate” is the term used when referring to the roof of the mouth. This section consists of muscle and bone, with a thin covering of skin to form the inside of the mouth. When your tongue is in contact with the top of the mouth, it is touching the palate. Not only does this area of the mouth separate the mouth from the nasal cavity, but it also plays an important role in speech and eating.

When a cleft palate occurs, it means there is an opening in the roof of the mouth, which can affect either the soft palate, the hard palate, or both. The lip and palate develop separately during pregnancy, so there is a possibility for a child to have both a cleft palate and a cleft lip. When the child has a cleft lip only, then the formation of the roof of the mouth is correct, with a deformity that only affects the lip.

Treatment for Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Since a cleft can impact so many aspects of daily living, it is recommended that this deformity is treated through surgery.

  • Cleft Lip: A cleft lip surgery is typically done around the age of 10. This treatment not only closes the separation in the lip, but it also provides a normal shape for the mouth and restores muscle function. Sometimes, nostril deformity surgery is also needed.
  • Cleft Palate: A cleft palate surgery can be completed when the child is 7 to 18 months old, depending on the overall health and individual situation of the patient. The surgery is beneficial for closing the gap between the nose and the roof of the mouth, reconnecting muscles that function in the palate and extending the length of the palate to ensure proper function.

A variety of surgical techniques can be used to correct clefts. Drs. Blecha and Jandali design unique treatment plans for each patient to ensure optimal results. For more information about these quality treatments, contact our office to schedule a consultation.