Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are the most common birth defects in the United States. It is estimated that one of every 600 newborns is affected by cleft lip and/or cleft palate.

A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the lip. Cleft lip can occur on one side (unilateral cleft lip) or on both sides (bilateral cleft lip). When the separation includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum, our team may be brought in for assistance.

A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth where the two sides of the palate did not fuse as the baby was developing in the uterus. Because the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible for the child to have a cleft palate with or without an accompanying cleft lip.

Cleft palate is a congenital defect, or birth defect, which occurs early in pregnancy. The cause for the majority of cleft palates appears to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

The surgery to close a cleft palate is usually completed within the first year of life so that the child’s speech develops normally. Our office will coordinate treatment with the oral surgeon, plastic surgeon and  speech pathologist in order to achieve the most positive outcome for these patients.

Our practice creates the prosthetic device used to temporarily close the palate so the baby can feed and grow until surgery. We may also design and fabricate special appliances called “speech bulbs” or “palatal lifts” to help close the communication between the nose and the mouth and in this way enable the patient’s speech to sound more normal.  As the child grows older, permanent fixed prostheses supported by teeth or implants can be made by the prosthodontist to replace missing teeth in and around the cleft area.