Cleft Lip & Palate

A cleft lip is the separation of parts of the lip, which often includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum. A cleft palate occurs when two sides of the palate do not join together while the baby is developing in the womb, leaving an opening in the roof of the mouth.

Cleft lip and palate can occur on one side, otherwise known as unilateral cleft lip and/or palate, or on both sides, known as bilateral cleft lip and/or palate. Because the lip and palate develop separately, it is possible for the child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate or both. 

  • Cleft lip and palate is the fourth most common birth defect in the United States.
  • Cleft lips and palates occur once in every 700 births. Seven percent of births in the United States include birth defects to the head and face.
  • Clefts occur among infants of all races with a 2:1 male-to-female ratio.

In most cases, surgery is necessary to align and join these parts; however, children born with a cleft may require other courses of treatment including dental/orthodontic care and speech therapy.

Treating Cleft Lip and Palate
Houston Methodist clinicians work in multidisciplinary craniofacial teams that may include an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, an ENT (ear, nose and throat, also known as otolaryngologist) specialist, a plastic surgeon, an orthodontist, a pediatric dentist and a speech pathologist. This coordinated care provides a systematic treatment plan that integrates the child’s developmental needs with those of his/her medical, surgical and dental care.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery