Cleft lip and palate: 5 things to know

One in every 700 babies is born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both. Children born with cleft lip, cleft palate or both will need specialized care early in their lives. Here are five things to know about cleft lip and cleft palate.

Cleft lip and cleft palate or a combination of the two are some of the most common birth defects in children: 1 in every 700 babies is born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both. Children born with cleft lip, cleft palate or both will need specialized care early in their lives. Here are five things to know about cleft lip and cleft palate.

  1. The combination of cleft lip and cleft palate is more common than just cleft lip or cleft palate. A cleft lip is when a gap is present in a baby’s lip with disruption to the muscle. The gap may be on one or both sides of a child’s upper lip and can reach all the way to the nose which also affects its shape. Babies with cleft lip often have a gap in their upper gum called the alveolus. Cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth that connects to the nose. This happens because the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth did not close completely during pregnancy. For some children, both the front and back parts of the palate are open. Some children only experience part of the palate being open.
  2. Children with cleft lip and cleft palate work with a craniofacial care team. A craniofacial specialist is a doctor who treats conditions that affect the bones and soft tissues of the head and face. These physicians work in a number of other specialties, including plastic surgeons; neurosurgeons; otolaryngologists; (ear, nose and throat doctors); oral and maxillofacial surgeons; orthodontists; and dentists. Children with cleft lip and cleft palate will need different care at different stages as they grow. Surgical repair of cleft lip and/or cleft palate is completed by a craniofacial team.
  3. The first surgeries to repair cleft lip or cleft palate usually occur in the first year of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that the first surgery to repair cleft lip should happen between the ages of 3 to 6 months, and the first surgery for cleft palate should happen between ages 9 and 14 months. Every child is different, however — a craniofacial specialist can help determine the best time for a child’s surgery. Children with cleft lip and/or cleft palate may need a different number and type of surgeries as they age, and may need regular visits with craniofacial specialists throughout childhood.
  4. Cleft lip, with or without cleft palate, can be diagnosed during pregnancy. Routine ultrasounds can find cleft lip during pregnancy, and parents can receive consultations regarding the condition before the baby is born. Both conditions also can be diagnosed after birth, and certain types of cleft palate, such as submucous cleft palate and bifid uvula might not be diagnosed until later in life. Should your baby be diagnosed with a cleft lip or palate, prenatal visits with a plastic surgeon can help you prepare and get your questions answered to be able to feel more at ease.
  5. What causes cleft lip and cleft palate in most infants is unknown. The conditions can be caused by a combination of factors, including genes and environmental factors, such as smoking, certain medicines and diabetes during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention.

Connect with the Norton Children’s craniofacial program

(502) 583-1697

First program in the Midwest to treat craniofacial disorders such as cleft lip and cleft palate

In the 1920s, Norton Children’s Hospital became the first in the Midwest to develop a “craniofacial anomalies team” to treat children with facial deformities. The team’s expertise and quality care has continued to grow.

Today, the Norton Children’s craniofacial team, in conjunction with the UofL School of Medicine, helps hundreds of kids with craniofacial disorders every year. Our team of specialists with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, is skilled in advanced techniques in craniofacial surgery. Our craniofacial specialists work closely with specialists in dentistryear, nose and throatoral and maxillofacial surgery; and pediatric rehabilitation to provide comprehensive care.


Craniofacial
Craniofacial

Norton Children’s Craniofacial Disorders Clinic

The multidisciplinary team at the Norton Children’s Craniofacial Disorders Clinic has more than nine decades of collective experience in craniofacial surgery to correct abnormalities, including cleft lip and palate, as well as the most rare and challenging neurological syndromes.

(502) 583-1697

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