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Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate: How We Treat (Our Programs and Clinics)

How this condition treated?

Children born with these conditions often face many complex health issues. Experience has shown that these issues are best managed by an interdisciplinary team of specialists.

  • The need for surgery will be determined on an individual basis. Typically, lip repair surgery occurs between 3 to 6 months of age, while palate surgery occurs between 9 to 18 months of age. Other surgeries may also be necessary.
  • Nurses help teach families about surgery, including pre- and post-op care.
  • Routine dental care with a pediatric dentist is recommend starting around 1 year of age to help monitor tooth development and provide dental guidance for families. Orthodontic care (braces, maxillary expansion) may begin once the upper front permanent teeth erupt (6 to 9 years of age). Dentists also use a nasoalveolar molding appliance (NAM) to bring the segments of the lip closer together before lip repair surgery.
  • Otolaryngologists (ear-nose-and-throat doctors) monitor for ear infections and place ear tubes as needed.
  • Occupational therapists help families develop a feeding plan in the newborn period.
  • Patients with a cleft palate are at an increased risk for developing middle ear infections and hearing loss.  For this reason, it is important to meet with audiologists to test hearing on a routine basis.
  • Pediatricians closely monitor weight gain and overall growth and development.
  • Speech therapists typically work with children after a lip/palate repair surgery.
  • Our patients and their families meet with a social worker and a psychologist to ensure that all their needs, social and emotional needs are being addressed as well as providing community resources and educational information.
  • Genetic counselors provide support to families who have or are at risk for a variety of inherited conditions, birth defects or genetic disorders.

All levels of care are available at Children's Hospital Colorado. Our physicians and consultants will also work closely with your own primary care physician, therapists, pediatric dentists and orthodontists to make sure there is continuity of care.

What to expect in the Cleft Palate Clinic

The Cleft Palate Clinic is a daylong evaluation. Older children will have a speech evaluation, hearing test, social work consultation and dental x-ray in the morning and the see the rest of the providers in the afternoon portion of the clinic. New babies or newly adopted children may attend an afternoon appointment only. It can be a long day, but results in receive comprehensive evaluations and formal treatment plans. Children are usually seen once a year through the Cleft Clinic but will often have follow-up appointments or therapies with specific providers throughout the year.

Why choose Children's Hospital Colorado for cleft conditions?

The Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado has been providing care since 1970, serving the region for over 40 years. We are one of the top centers in the country for the treatment of children with cleft lip and palate, and feature the largest cleft team in the Rocky Mountain region. Each year, we treat over 340 children with cleft lip/palate conditions, including 60-70 newborns. We treat a wide range of diagnoses, including submucous cleft palate, velopharyngeal incompetence, paralysis of the palate, oral–motor coordination problems, 22q deletion syndrome and craniofacial differences.

Children's Colorado is the only resource center in the Rocky Mountain region bringing together the benefits of comprehensive care, teaching and research. Our multidisciplinary program is recognized and endorsed by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association for team care.  Programs receiving this endorsement promote the best possible outcomes for children born with clefts or other craniofacial birth defects.

Children born with these conditions often face many complex health issues.  Experience has shown that these issues are best managed by an interdisciplinary team of specialists. As a result, our team includes pediatricians, nurses, occupational therapists, genetic counselors, audiologists, speech therapists, ear-nose-and-throat specialists, plastic surgeons, dentists, social workers and  psychologists. Our specialists work together and with the family, as a team to determine individualized treatment goals, both short term and long term.  Your child's treatment team follows them through infancy until young adulthood to ensure the best outcome.

At the Children's Colorado Cleft Clinic, we help kids heal inside and out, which is why we offer additional activities for cleft patients, including summer and winter cleft camps, bowling parties and holiday parties.

To contact the Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic,please call (720) 777-2574.