Cleft Lip and Palate

What is Cleft Lip and Palate?

Cleft lip and palate are a common birth abnormality in the U.S. The conditions occur together or separately. The palate is the roof of the mouth.

During development, there is a split between the right and left sides of the upper lip and roof of the mouth. As the baby grows, the split normally grows together. When the tissues do not join, a small or large split forms from the lip to the nose. A split can also form anywhere on the roof of the mouth.

Causes of cleft lip and palate include:

  • Poor maternal health
  • Alcohol use, anti-epileptic medicines, or smoking during pregnancy
  • Genetic defect
  • Genetic syndromes, like Down’s syndrome

Symptoms of Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and palate can affect a child’s appearance and cause frustrating symptoms, such as difficulty with:

  • Breathing
  • Drinking
  • Eating
  • Ear infections
  • Hearing
  • LanguageSpeech
  • Teeth

Your Care Team

  • Audiologist, a doctor who specializes in hearing
  • Nutritionist
  • Orthodontist
  • Pediatric Dentist
  • Pediatrician
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Speech pathologist

Treatments for Cleft Lip and Palate

Our pediatric specialists use the most advanced procedures to close cleft lips and palate. Your child’s exact care depends on the size of the cleft, their age and needs. Treatment may include:

  • Cleft lip repair. We widen the lip and close the gap using tissue and skin from both sides of the cleft lip. We recommend lip repair between 10 weeks and one year old
  • Cleft palate closure. We connect the muscles and tissues on both sides of the palate to close the cleft. We usually perform this procedure between 6 and 18 months old.
  • Genetic testing and counseling. Cleft lip and palate are often caused by genetic syndromes. Our genetic counselors explain your test results and discuss the risks for cleft lip and palate for your future children.

Your child may also need other care and surgeries, such as:

  • Alveolar cleft bone grafting. If the cleft affects the bony ridge where the upper teeth sit, we can use bone grafts to improve functions including chewing and speech.
  • Dental and orthodontic care. We ensure proper alignment and space for your child’s jaw and teeth.
  • Orthognathic surgery. We correct abnormalities to improve chewing and facial symmetry.
  • Speech therapy. Your child works with a therapist to improve their speech and language.

Make an Appointment with Emory Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

We provide oral maxillofacial specialty care for adults and children. For information, call 404-778-4500.

Find an oral maxillofacial doctor at Emory Healthcare