A cleft lip or cleft palate refers to a split in a baby’s mouth or face. A cleft occurs during early pregnancy when the baby’s face develops. Each side of the face grows separately and eventually meets in the middle. In some instances, the face does not complete the development process, and a cleft can form in the roof of the mouth, the upper lip, or both. Cleft lips and palates can negatively affect your baby’s ability to eat and speak normally.
Cleft lip and palate are some of the most common conditions among infants. Oral surgeons are an important part of the treatment team for babies with clefts because they specialize in facial reconstruction and oral health solutions. It’s important to have your baby’s cleft treated as soon as possible. If left alone, cleft lip and palate can result in digestion issues, inner ear problems, and other health problems.
The treatment for your child’s cleft lip will depend on the severity of the space. One of our oral surgeons will perform corrective surgery when your child is around 3 months old. This surgery is designed to join the two sides of the lip, eliminating the gap and restoring function and aesthetics to the mouth. In cases where the cleft lip extends to the nose and affects the nostrils, your doctor can either address it during the same surgery or schedule a follow-up procedure. In more severe cases, several surgeries may be necessary over time to fully repair a cleft lip.
Cleft palates are typically more extensive than cleft lips and therefore require more involved treatment. Several surgeries are usually needed to completely repair a cleft palate, with the first occurring when your child is between 7 and 18 months. During the first surgery, your oral surgeon will close the opening in the roof of the mouth that connects it to the nasal cavity and form a functional palate. As your child ages, their mouth will need to accommodate the growth of adult teeth. Around 8–12 years of age, your oral surgeon will likely perform an additional surgery to prepare the palate for this growth.
Our doctors have undergone extensive training and have years of experience treating all facial conditions. If your child suffers from a cleft lip or palate, we encourage you to contact one of our offices in Ashland, KY, or Beckley, Charleston, Huntington, Hurricane, Kanawha City, or Parkersburg, WV, to schedule a consultation. We look forward to restoring your child’s smile.