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----John Meara, MD, DMD, MBA, Boston Children's plastic surgeon-in-chief
The first three months of a pregnancy are a critical time for a growing fetus: In addition to many other developments taking place throughout the body, the structure of the mouth and face also begins to take shape.
Normally, at around the fifth or sixth week, the two sides of a baby’s upper lip begin to fuse together. Sometimes, though, the fusing doesn’t happen the right way and the upper lip is split, or cleft.
A child with a cleft lip has a visible separation in the skin of her top lip. This space can be a small hole, or it can be a significant opening that extends from the base of the baby’s nose all the way down to her top jaw and gums.
Between the eighth and twelfth weeks of pregnancy, the roof of a baby’s mouth begins to form. The roof of the mouth is made up of two parts:
When the development of one or both of these parts is incomplete, the baby has what is known as a cleft palate.
A child can be born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate or both. Cleft lip/cleft palate:
The good news is that cleft lip/cleft palate are very treatable. Although children with more advanced cases may require assistance in several areas, and may need multiple procedures over time, there are several minimally invasive treatment options available to help them regain a normal appearance and range of functions.
Boston Children's Hospital treats children with cleft lip, cleft palate and the combination of both defects through our dedicated Cleft Lip and Palate Program.
Here at Boston Children’s, our compassionate clinicians also understand the emotional and psychosocial toll cleft lip/cleft palate can cause. We recognize your child as an individual—never “just a patient”—and provide vital resources and support to meet the needs of your entire family.
Reviewed by John G. Meara, MD, DMD, MBA, and John B. Mulliken, MD
© Boston Children’s Hospital; posted in 2011
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”