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What You Need to Know About Cleft Lip and Palate Q&A with an Expert What is cleft lip and cleft palate in children? Cleft lip and palate are openings or splits in the upper lip or roof of the mouth (palate) that affect 1 in 500-700 babies each year. A child can be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both in varying types of severity. The cleft may involve one or both sides of the palate, reach as far as the throat and include the lip. It should be noted that a child born with a cleft is generally of normal intelligence and can anticipate a long and healthy life. What causes cleft lip and cleft palate in a child? Cleft lip and palate occur when and the lip and/or palate do not fuse properly as a baby develops in the womb. It can be caused by genes passed on from parents as well as environmental factors, such as taking certain medications during pregnancy, smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy, infections and too little vitamin B and folic acid. Parents who have cleft lip, cleft palate, or both, or who have other kids with the problem are at an increased risk of having babies with the defect. age. After repair of the cleft palate, an overnight stay at the hospital is expected. As with cleft lip surgery, bottle feeding starts the same day. • Nasal deformities associated with cleft lip will have their first surgery at the time of a cleft lip surgery. The final cleft nasal surgery is done around the age of 16 or older. This helps the child have less of a visible deformity. • Cleft palate. The first surgery for cleft palate is usually between 10 and 12 months of age to prepare the child for speech development. Is revisionary surgery possible? When a patient has an unsatisfactory result from prior surgery, secondary surgery may be the patient’s best plan for results. The skilled cleft surgeon will be able to inform the patient about options that may be offered for each individual patient. What are findings and complications of cleft lip and cleft palate in a child? The findings can be seen during the first exam by your baby’s health care provider and include lips and/or palate not formed properly. Nasal deformities typically are associated with cleft clip deformities.. Possible complications may include feeding trouble, ear infections and hearing loss, speech and language delay, and/or dental problems. How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated in a child? Both cleft lip and cleft palate can be fixed with surgery. The purpose of a cleft lip/palate operation is to give a child the benefit of a normal functioning mouth and appearance and should be performed as early as possible. It should be noted that depending on the severity of the deformity, a child might require a number of operations throughout their lifetime to achieve optimal results. • Cleft lip. The first surgery for cleft lip is usually at three months of Grant Fairbanks, MD Grant Fairbanks, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon at Sanford Clinic in Bismarck. Dr. Fairbanks graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA and completed his residency in general and plastic surgery from Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA. Dr. Fairbanks specializes in a number of procedures, including cleft and palate lip repair, otoplasty, nasal surgery and breast reconstruction. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Fairbanks, call the Sanford Clinic in Bismarck at (701) 323-5300.