Cleft palate is one of the most common birth defects in the country. It occurs when separate areas of the baby’s face and mouth do not join together properly when developing during pregnancy. This condition can lead to dental, speech, feeding, and hearing complications and should be repaired when a child is between the ages of 9 months and 2 years old.

Although the cause of cleft palate remains unknown, risk factors such as genetics, smoking during pregnancy, diabetes, and substance abuse may increase the risk of a child being born with a cleft palate.

In most cases, cleft palate is diagnosed when a baby is born. However, sometimes, an ultrasound may reveal this condition during pregnancy. If your child was born with cleft palate, a doctor will design a treatment plan that is unique to their particular condition.

Your child will have to see a plastic surgeon and may need to meet with a pediatric dentist if they need a special appliance to assist them with eating. At about 6 months, you will likely need to get your baby ready for their repair by teaching them how to drink from a regular cup rather than a sippy cup. This is because when the cleft palate is repaired, your child will have stitches in the roof of their mouth and using a sippy cup may irritate them. We are often asked if a local health insurance plan covers the cost of seeing the plastic surgeon and/or pediatric dentist. The only way to know is to contact the specialist and have them run the insurance.

Your child’s cleft palate will likely be surgically repaired when they are 9 month old. When they are between the ages of 3 and 5, they may need speech therapy services so they can speak properly. Between the ages of 5 and 9, your child may need a bone graft if a cleft is through their gumline and the area needs to be expanded. This procedure is similar to getting braces. Orthodontics for children with cleft palates usually begins at around age 11.

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