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What is cleft lip and palate and how is it treated?

Cleft lip or sugar lip refers to a condition where there is a gap and an open space along the lip. This gap can be small or large so that it connects the upper lip and the nose. Cleft palate also occurs when the roof of the mouth does not close properly during the early development of the fetus inside the mother’s womb. The palate consists of two parts called hard palate and soft palate. Each of them has the ability to remove gaps.

According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cleft palate and cleft palate are also known as birth defects related to the mouth and teeth, and more than 7,000 babies are born with this condition in the United States every year.

Symptoms of cleft palate and lip

In most cases, the presence of cracks along the lip is the most obvious and main symptom of diabetes. In this situation, milk may come out of your baby’s nose while feeding. Because the barrier between mouth and nose in these children is abnormal. In children with this birth defect, there may be problems with teeth. For example, they may have loose teeth or have more teeth.

Cleft palate can also cause frequent middle ear infections and Eustachian tube problems in your child. The Eustachian tube is a duct that helps drain fluids from the ear and adjusts the pressure on both sides of the eardrum. If your child has problems with ear infections and their Eustachian tubes are not draining properly, they may develop hearing loss.

If your child has cleft lip or cleft palate, he may have difficulty speaking and pronouncing different words. Speech problems caused by clefts usually involve larynx or intranasal sounds.

Causes of cleft palate and lip

The cause of cleft lip and palate is not yet known precisely. But doctors believe that this defect occurs due to the effects of genetic and environmental factors. If one or both parents carry the defective gene related to the development of this defect, it is possible that their child will also have this defect.

In addition to genetic factors, researchers believe that doing some work during pregnancy can have an effect on the development of cleft lip and palate in the fetus. For example, the following can cause such a defect:

  • smoking
  • drinking alcohol
  • Drug abuse
  • being diabetic
  • Not getting essential vitamins before pregnancy such as folic acid

Clefts can occur as a separate birth defect or as part of a larger, more serious genetic syndrome, such as van der Woude syndrome or velocardiofacial syndrome, both of which are genetic abnormalities.

Diagnosis of cleft palate and lip

With the help of ultrasound waves, the existence of this problem can be detected during pregnancy. If your doctor detects that your baby has a cleft palate or lip while in the womb, they may want to take a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby to check for other complications.


The treatment of these defects depends on the level and severity of your child’s cleft lip or palate. The treatment process is often aimed at closing the cleft and reconstructing the child’s face and palate. For this purpose, cosmetic surgery may be performed on the patient several times.

During the surgical treatment process, a team of specialists may work with you and your child. For example, if your child has difficulty with speech due to a cleft, he may work with a speech therapist. Your child’s team may include a plastic surgeon, an oral surgeon, or an orthodontist.


The most ideal time to perform cleft lip and palate repair surgery is in the first year of his life. However, your child may need additional reconstruction and repair surgeries during their teenage years.

Cleft lip repair surgery

It is recommended to repair cleft lip when your child is between 10 weeks and 1 year old. If your child has a specific cleft, the doctor may want to temporarily close the cleft until major repair surgery can be arranged.

During cleft lip reconstruction surgery, your child will be under anesthesia and a surgeon will close the gap with the help of both separated edges of the lip and make the child’s lip wider.

Cleft palate repair surgery

Doctors usually perform cleft palate repair when your child is between 6 and 18 months old. During the operation, the muscles and tissues on both sides of the palate or roof of the mouth are completely connected to close the gap. The healing process is a little longer in this procedure because if the child does not cooperate, the healing process may be difficult.

Coping with your child’s birth defect

If you have a child who has problems with cleft lip and palate structures, you may be just as bothered as your child. Because you have to pay a lot of attention to your child and treat him on time. Try to get help from your child’s treatment team to get the best solutions to manage your existing condition through them.

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