Cleft Lip and Palate Repair
What Is Cleft Lip or Palate Repair?
Cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair is surgery to fix separation of the upper lip or a split in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip and palate can be repaired through plastic surgery.
Surgery is designed to improve a child’s ability to eat, speak and hear, and restore a more normal appearance. An infant’s initial cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair often makes a vast difference in quality of life. Secondary procedures, however, might be needed for functional reasons or to reﬁne appearance.
Cleft Lip Repair
Cleft lip repair typically requires only one reconstructive surgery to restore the mouth’s normal shape and muscle function. This surgery typically occurs when babies are about 3 months old. During cleft lip surgery, nostrils are repaired with later revisions, if needed. In addition to improving appearance and function, goals of surgery include:
- Closing the cleft lip.
- Forming a cupid’s bow (the curve at the center of the upper lip).
- Creating adequate distance between the upper lip and nose.
Even though the scars of a cleft lip repair are generally located within the normal contours of the face, they will always be visible.
Cleft Palate Repair
By closing the opening in the roof of the mouth, this repair creates the floor of the nasal cavity. The surgery improves a child’s ability to speak and eat, eliminating the need for modified bottles and feeding techniques. Cleft palate surgery typically occurs when a baby is 9 to 12 months old.
Some children who have cleft palates will need additional surgeries or treatments as they develop—to help with speech, improve the appearance of the lip, close openings near the mouth or add bone to the upper gum to allow for proper gum development. Often, children who’ve had repair surgeries for orthodontic issues and speech and language development concerns are monitored through adolescence.
When the cleft also affects the shape of the nose, additional procedures can:
- Improve symmetry between the nostrils.
- Create an adequate length of tissue separating the nostrils.
- Minimize the appearance of a flattened tip of the nose or a nose that pulls downward.