Cleft lip and palate deformities occur when the tissue that forms the upper lip and roof of the mouth fail to join together before birth. Cleft palates vary in size, and because the lips and palate develop at different times, it is possible for babies to be born with cleft lip only, a cleft palate only or both.
Often a cleft is part of a syndrome, so there may be other birth defects in other parts of the child’s body. In other cases, clefts are genetic, or hereditary. The risk of a child having a cleft lip or palate may be greater for those parents who have a family history of the birth defect.
The condition is associated with alterations in speech, hearing and facial growth. Cleft lip and palate are corrected by reconstructive surgery and multidisciplinary therapies.
The condition occurs in approximately one of every 700 births. In fact, facial clefts are one of the most common birth defects in the U.S.
Despite the frequency of its occurrence and the severity of the deformities, care for patients with cleft lip and palate can be difficult to obtain. For this reason, Shriners Hospitals for Children added cleft lip and palate to the health care system’s treatment disciplines in 2005.
At Shriners Hospitals for Children, patients with a cleft lip and/or palate are treated by a multidisciplinary group of experts who work together to improve the child’s ability to eat, communicate, breathe and even feel good about their looks.
Each patient’s unique treatment plan may include surgery; orthodontics; and hearing, speech and psychological therapies, as well as other supports. The goal of the treatment program is to help each child to achieve optimal function and to improve their facial appearance to the fullest extent possible.
Care for cleft lip and palate is currently available at nine Shriners Hospitals for Children.
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