What is a cleft lip and cleft palate?

A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of your child’s upper lip. It appears as a narrow or wide opening and can include gums and nostrils and extend to their palate (roof of their mouth).

A cleft palate is a split or opening in the top of your child’s mouth. It can involve the bony front portion or the soft back portion of their mouth.

Cleft lips and palates can occur together or separately, although having both a cleft lip and cleft palate is most common.

Cleft lip surgery

Cleft lip repair is surgery to fix a split (cleft) in your child’s lip. Their surgeon makes a cut (incision) along the edges of the cleft lip extending up into their nose. They use stitches to reapproximate the muscle of your child’s upper lip and bring the cut edges of the skin together to shape the upper lip and nostrils.

Cleft palate surgery

Cleft palate repair is surgery to fix a separation or opening in the roof of your child’s mouth. Their surgeon detaches and rearranges the tissues on the roof of their mouth. Stitches are used to bring the left and right sides of the cleft together.

What do cleft lip and palate surgery fix?

Cleft lip and cleft palate surgery help restore function to your child’s lips and mouth and correct their appearance. Cleft lips and palates are associated with health problems like dental problems and speech problems.

Surgery helps improve your child’s ability to:

  • Eat and drink.
  • Breathe.
  • Hear.
  • Speak.