Harvard Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Procedures

Cleft lip & palate

Did you know . . . ?

Seven percent of births in the United States include birth defects to the head and face.

Cleft lips and palates occur once in every 700 births. Clefts occur among infants of all races with a 2:1 male-to-female ratio. The severity of clefts can vary greatly, with 46 percent involving both the lip and the palate, 21 percent affecting the lip alone, and 33 percent involving only the palate.

A cleft is a separation of parts of the lip or roof of the mouth formed in early development of the fetus. Infants with these defects are born with all parts present but fail to fuse along the midline of the face prior to birth. In most cases, surgery is necessary to align and join these parts.

Children born with this type of deformity should be evaluated by a craniofacial team to detect other syndromes that are commonly associated with cleft lip and palate. A craniofacial team may include an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, an ENT specialist, a plastic surgeon, a pediatric dentist, a pediatrician, as well as a speech pathologist and a geneticist. This allows a comprehensive and systematic treatment plan to be developed that integrates the child’s developmental needs with those of his requirements for medical, surgical, and dental care.