Treating Cleft Lip & Palate

Cleft lip and palate is a facial and oral malformation from when the facial structure fails to complete during prenatal development. Detected in early pregnancy, clefting occurs due to a lack of lip and mouth tissues. It can also occur when muscles fail to connect.

A cleft lip is a narrow separation in the upper lip skin, while cleft palate involves the roof of the mouth. Typically, genes are the primary cause, but smoking, diabetes, and the use of certain medications can also cause clefting.

Cleft lip and palate may be an unattractive deformity, but people suffering from the issue can treat and correct it through surgery. In most cases, medical procedures can reinstate normal functionality and appearance with little to no scarring.


Typically, cleft lip and palate can be identified at the time of birth, but you can also see it during the ultrasound in early pregnancy. In both cases, you don’t require conducting special tests and scans for diagnosis.

During the ultrasound around the 13th week of pregnancy, the doctor can detect the abnormality or defect in facial development. As the fetus continues to grow, the diagnosis for cleft lip can be much more accurate. However, cleft palate can’t be detected during pregnancy.  If clefting is diagnosed, then the doctor may conduct a fluid test to detect other kinds of birth defects.


Surgical procedures can help treat cleft lip and palate, which also improves their ability to talk, eat, hear and speak. It also helps removes the defect while giving them a normal appearance. Doctors involved in the treatment of cleft lip and palate includes:

  • Surgeon
  • ENT specialist
  • Pediatricians
  • Dentists
  • Orthodontists
  • Auditory specialists
  • Speech therapists
  • Counselor
  • Psychologists

Other than surgeries, patients may require therapies for further improvement and functioning of muscles.

Surgeries to correct cleft lip and palate depend on the severity and complexity of each case. Other than corrective surgeries, your doctor may recommend follow up surgeries for functionality improvement. They typically occur in the following manner:

Cleft lip repair—takes place within 3-6 months

It closes the separation in the lip by adding a new flap of tissues. The doctor will make an incision to stitch together the flap with the lip muscles. Nasal repair is also done at the same time.

Cleft palate repair —takes place within the first 12 months

Various medical procedures are used to repair the separation over the roof of the mouth. By making a small incision, the doctor repositions the muscles and tissues. It is then stitched together.

Follow-up surgeries — from two to late teenage

It consists of:

Ear Tube Surgery:

A cleft palate can cause hearing loss. This explains why doctors place additional ear tubes to reduce the risk of chronic ear fluid buildup.

Surgeries for appearance:

To improve the appearance of one’s mouth, lip, and nose, they opt for further surgery.

Your further may suggest further surgeries to treat the complications due to cleft lip and palate. It comprises of:

  • Feeding practices
  • Speech therapy
  • Orthodontic treatments
  • Treatment of ear infection
  • Psychological counseling
  • Addition of hearing aids