Marshfield Clinic’s Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Clinic provides comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation services for children with cleft lip and cleft palate.
Our experienced multidisciplinary team treats the condition using a coordinated care approach.
Not every child needs the help of every team member. Treatment and rehabilitation is coordinated so just the right help is available at the right time.
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Cleft lip and cleft palate
The conditions of cleft lip and cleft palate develop during the early months of fetal development, prior to birth.
These "cleft" defects are known to develop from a genetic or hereditary failure of bone and/or soft tissue to join together.
The clefts can involve the upper lip, hard or soft palate ("roof" of the mouth) or any combination of these.
The Marshfield Clinic team is staffed with surgical and non-surgical experts specifically trained in the diagnosis, treatment, repair and extended rehabilitation of children before and after these defects have been corrected.
Treating cleft lip or cleft palate takes a team of different specialists who are experts in helping kids. Treatment often includes multiple surgical and non-surgical steps.
Marshfield Clinic employs all of these experts.
Cleft lip is usually repaired by the time a baby is 3 to 6 months old. During surgery on the cleft lip, the doctor closes the gap in the lip and corrects the nostril.
A child who has cleft lip repaired will have a scar on the lip under the nose.
Cleft palate is usually repaired at age 9 to 12 months. During this surgery, doctors close the hole between the roof of the mouth and the nose and reconnect the muscles in the soft palate.
Follow up treatments and procedures
After surgery, a child will get regular hearing tests to check for problems caused by fluid building up in the ears.
This fluid build-up may require tubes to be placed in the child's ears to improve hearing.
Speech therapy may also be needed when a child starts talking.
Children with a cleft palate might need another operation to improve their speech.
Braces are common for children with cleft lip or palette after their permanent teeth grow in to help straighten them.
A bone graft may also be needed when the child is about 8 years old. In a bone graft, a surgeon takes some bone, usually from the person's hip, and uses it to fill in the gap in the upper gum area.
This allows the upper gum area to hold the permanent teeth better and keep the upper jaw steady.
As they become teenagers, children may want to have their scars made less noticeable, their jaws aligned, or their noses straightened.
These operations can improve a person's bite, speech, breathing and appearance.