The palate is the roof of your mouth, and it's made of two pieces:
- The hard palate, which is the part right behind the teeth; you can feel it with your tongue
- The soft palate, which is at the very back of the mouth, near the throat
A cleft is an opening or a gap, so a cleft palate is condition where there is a gap in the roof of your mouth. Types of cleft palates include:
- When the gap is only in the soft palate, we call it an incomplete/partial cleft palate
- When there is a gap in the both the hard and soft palate, we call it a complete cleft palate.
- A complete cleft can occur in one or both sides. If it's on one side, we call it unilateral cleft. If the cleft occurs on both sides, we call it bilateral cleft.
A cleft palate occurs when the parts that form the palate don't join together properly: this happens very early in the pregnancy, within the first 6-8 weeks. Cleft palates can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors.
The palate separates the mouth from the nose. We use it when we eat, drink and speak. A cleft palate may impact a child's:
- Dental health
Cleft palates can be successfully corrected with surgery. Our team works with our patients' parents to choose the best time for surgery. In most cases, a baby's cleft palate should be repaired by the time the baby reaches the age of 9 months. Determining when to have surgery will depend on the patient's general health and the nature of the cleft palate.
The typical treatment and follow-up plans are outlined below:
The treatment process starts with a nursing consultation for new parents to learn about and get support for diagnosis, feeding and treatment plans.
Our orthodontists assess the cleft, and if needed, fit the baby with an orthodontic appliance that may help to narrow the cleft.
Our surgeons assess the cleft and begin planning for surgery.
Our entire team assesses our patient's cleft over the course of a 2 day out patient visit to complete the surgical plan.
Our anesthetist and nurse ensure that our patient is ready to have anesthetic and surgery.
Our surgeons repair the cleft in the palate, and if necessary, insert middle ear tubes.
Our patient is assessed by either our team, or by specialists in our patient's community.
Our patient is assessed by the entire team over the course of a 2 day out-patient visit.