What treatment is available for Cleft Lip and Palate?

Cleft lip and palate can seem like a severe condition due to its appearance on the face, but it is actually less of a risk to your child’s future health than many other birth defects. This may come as little comfort to you but you can at least be safe in the knowledge that there is good treatment available. However, children who are diagnosed with such a condition will typically need to continue treatment into their late teens.

Surgery is a distinct possibility, though this will depend on the severity of your child’s condition. There are also specialists who can help your child to improve their speech and hearing, should they be having trouble with such things. This section provides information on the types of treatment available, in order ease any worries you may have and also to give you an insight as to what treatment may involve.

Specialist clinics

Cleft lip and palate is a condition that has caused around ten specialist centres to sprout up around the country. You will be advised to visit one as soon as your child is diagnosed with the condition, whether this is during pregnancy or after birth. Such specialist centres have several medical specialists working within them. They include dentists, orthodontists, nurses, doctors, otorhinolaryngologists, geneticists, audiologists, speech therapists and psychologists.

Such a diverse team will be able to offer sound advice and ensure that your child receives the best treatment. Your child will be able to make use of specialist clinics until their body stops growing, at around the age of eighteen.


Though it may seem a big step to take surgery really can make a difference to the development and growth of your child. A surgical operation will involve your child being sedated through the use of anaesthetic, and you can choose to stay with your child during this time. Your child will then remain under observation at hospital for a minimum of three days after surgery to ensure there are no complications.

The form of the condition will affect when surgery is undertaken:

  1. Cleft lip - The operation will typically take place at around three months old, though there is an inclination toward undertaking surgery at around ten weeks old. If the cleft lip is unilateral and bilateral then two bouts of surgery may be required to fix each case at different stages.
  2. Cleft palate - Surgery will usually take place before your child’s first birthday. There will likely be the need for only one surgical operation, but in some cases there is the need for several more bouts of surgery to ensure your child’s speech loses the nasal sound quality that it may have.

There is also the possibility that your child will need further bouts of surgery. This will be the case if further cosmetic reconstruction is required to your child’s nose, lip or palate. Furthermore, it may be the case that your child requires a bone graft to fill the gap if there is still one in the gum. This will typically be done at around the age of ten and will work to help your child’s second teeth to fix correctly into the gum.

Speech therapy

Cleft lip and palate, or one of its many forms, can have an affect on your child’s communication skills. This is still the case even after they have had surgery, after which there will likely be a nasal sound quality to your child’s voice. A speech therapist can work with your child for as long as needed to ensure that their speech develops accurately. If speech therapy alone is not enough then your child may be prescribed with a pharyngeal flap through surgery to help control the flow of air from the nose during speech.

Orthodontic treatment

Such a condition may have an affect upon your child’s teeth. It may cause some front teeth to be missing or merely crooked. This can be fixed through the application of braces, which will work to gradually force the teeth into position. The duration of treatment will vary according to the crookedness of the teeth. If there are teeth missing then implants are a distinct possibility. These are fake teeth that would be placed and fixed into the spaces where teeth are missing.


A child with cleft lip and palate can incur difficulties when in social settings and when trying to communicate with other people. This is due to the negative stigma that may be attached to the condition, as well as the way it can affect hearing and speech skills. Counselling from professional psychotherapists will be available. This will be accessible for both the child and their parents, as this can be a difficult time for all parties involved. Counselling would typically involve the child and parent discussing their emotions and fears in order to overcome any anxieties they may have.

Jaw correction

Such a condition can not only affect a child’s teeth but can also affect the development of the jaw. Surgery to reconstruct the jaw will vary according to the severity of the condition, with some treatment being left until the age of around eleven, while other specialists will choose to correct the jaw at an earlier age. This is due to some specialists believing that you should wait until the second teeth have come through, while others deem it best to get the operation out of the way and to get the child into speech therapy as soon as possible.

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