Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate: What You Need to Know for Your Baby

Dr. Sacha Obaid, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Serving Dallas, Plano, Southlake, and Nearby Fort Worth, Texas

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By Sacha Obaid

Having a baby is a miracle, but if your newborn comes into the world with a medical condition, your life may suddenly go from being filled with happiness to being filled with anxiety. Two of the most common conditions that children are born with are cleft palates and cleft lips. While these issues can range in severity, they can also greatly affect your child’s overall health.

Thankfully, a well-trained and experienced cosmetic surgeon can help to solve the issues associated with cleft palates and lips.

Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate

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Cleft palates and cleft lips are facial and oral malformations that occur early in a woman’s pregnancy. A cleft forms in the fetus’s oral palate or near its lip when there is not enough tissue present to fuse the palate or lip together during fetal development. A cleft palate is diagnosed when there is a large split or opening in the roof of the mouth, whereas a cleft lip is diagnosed when there is a separation or gap in the skin of the upper lip. These conditions may occur together or separately.

Long-Term Problems Associated with Cleft Palates

In addition to the cosmetic concerns surrounding cleft lips or palates, long-term health complications can occur. Cleft lips and palates affect the general construction of a child’s mouth and can lead to dental disorders, hearing issues, and speech problems. Cleft palates can cause children to have displaced teeth or large gaps in between their teeth. Adolescents with cleft palates often need braces to correct their smiles. Having a cleft palate makes children prone to ear infections due to fluid buildup in their ears. Ear infections can lead to hearing loss and speech issues as children age.

Fixing a Cleft Palate or Cleft Lip

Fortunately, cleft palates and cleft lips are fixable thorough one or many cosmetic surgeries. The malformation may require more than one surgery if it is severe. In order to fix the problem early and prevent other issues from occurring, children generally undergo surgery when they are three months old.

Cleft lips are typically repaired in one or two surgeries when the child is still an infant. Cleft palates may require more surgeries, and the surgeries may extend over the span of the child’s life. The first surgery to repair a cleft palate generally occurs when the child is between 6 and 12 months. They may need an additional bone graft around the age of eight.

If your child is struggling with a cleft palate or lip, consider a consultation with a qualified surgeon who has pediatric experience.