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Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate

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Diagnosing and Treating Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate

Many cases of cleft lip/cleft palate are diagnosed once a child is born, but more and more often the birth defects are being diagnosed on a prenatal ultrasound. Parents with a family history of cleft lip/cleft palate often seek genetic counseling before conception or during pregnancy to determine the risk to their baby.

Treatment Options
Children born with cleft lip/cleft palate often require the care of several specialists.  Many children with orofacial clefts are treated by a craniofacial team that provides coordinated care by a group of specialists trained and experienced in treating children with cleft lip and/or palate.  These specialists may include:

  • A surgeon (plastic surgeon, oral maxillofacial surgeon, or neurosurgeon)
  • A pediatric dentist or other dental specialist (for example, a prosthodontist, who makes prosthetic devices for the mouth)
  • An orthodontist (to straighten the teeth and align the jaws
  • A speech-language pathologist (to assist with feeding problems and speech therapy)
  • An audiologist (to assess hearing)
  • A geneticist (to screen patients for craniofacial syndromes and help parents and adult patients understand recurrence risks)
  • An otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor)
  • An ophthalmologist (eye doctor to treat eye conditions sometimes associated with craniofacial conditions)

 
The coordination required among the many specialists is good reason for a child to be treated within a craniofacial program at a major medical center, where experts in cleft lip/cleft palate work together to plan and implement an integrated treatment strategy. (See Surgery for Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate.)

Find out more about the Craniofacial Program at the Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatric Otolaryngology service.

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Reviewed by Vikash Modi, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: January 2019