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Cleft Lip & Palate
Picture of an infant patient from South Valley Oral and Facial Surgery in CA

A cleft palate is a somewhat common birth defect with about 1 in 1600 babies born with a cleft lip and palate. Additionally, about 1 in 2800 babies are born with a cleft lip without a cleft palate. Without treatment, the baby can suffer with problems that prevent the ability to suck preventing them from getting the nutrition and comfort they need. As the baby grows, there can be issues with tooth development and speech development. Thankfully today, we have increased knowledge and treatment options available to help.

Cleft Lip and Palate Background


There isn’t one answer to why a baby developed with a cleft lip and/or palate. Most studies point to both genetic and environmental factors, with most people never knowing why it occurred.

During fetal development in the womb, a number of bones and tissues have to align and then the tissue joins. In your mouth, you have two palates that make up the roof of the mouth, if these two palates don’t align or join correctly, it is known as a cleft palate. A cleft lip is characterized as an opening at the top of the upper lip, either in the middle of the lip or to one side. How the cleft appears, or the severity of it, can vary, sometimes the cleft can start on one side of the nose and reach all the way to the other. Treatment should be considered, without treatment challenges in how the child eats, drinks and speaks can occur. Additionally, the cleft can affect tooth placement as teeth grow, and result in a gum line that isn’t fully formed.

Cleft Treatment Options


In most cases, a cleft lip and palate is considered a treatable condition, either resolving the issue or improving the child’s function. Children with these conditions usually require the assistance of multiple medical professionals to support varying problems associated with a cleft lip and palate, including an oral surgeon, an orthodontist, your personal physician, speech therapy and a dietician.

Cleft palate surgery generally takes place between the ages of 7 to 18 months old. This can vary based on the severity and situation. If the child has other associated health problems, surgery may be delayed to follow the treatment plan based on their needs. A Cleft palate is usually treated early on with a prosthetic device designed specifically to cover the roof of the mouth and create a barrier between the mouth and the nasal cavity.

We may discuss surgery to:

•  Close the Soft Tissue: We will want to close the tissue to improve the child’s dental health, teeth development, speech development and aesthetic.
•  Close the Palate: We will want to close the gap or hole of the palate on the roof of the mouth and the nose. This process is completed to also reconnect the muscles and make the palate long enough to improve the function of the palate.
•  Cleft Hard Palate Repair: In general, this procedure is completed between the ages of 8 and 12, when the child’s cuspid teeth develop. This procedure involves the placement of a bone graft that is taken from the hip and placed into the bony defect. This should close the area from the nose to the gum tissue. This procedure may also be performed in teenagers and adults as an individual procedure or combined with corrective jaw surgery.
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Contact us today in San Jose: 408-479-9449, Gilroy: 408-479-8788 or Los Banos: 209-826-4312.
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