Patient and Family Resources


Clefts are a very common birth difference. Globally, an estimated 1 out of every 700 babies are born with a cleft lip and/or palate. Smile Train aims to support families worldwide by creating, connecting and sharing resources about comprehensive cleft care. Explore our site to find invaluable advice and resources.

Comprehensive Cleft Care Areas

Understanding Cleft

Families should consult a cleft team member to be empowered with information about possible causes of cleft.

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Feeding and Nutrition

Because cleft can affect a child’s ability to suck and swallow, nutrition services are essential to ensure the child receives proper nutrition.

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Clefts form during fetal development and surgery is done to correct function and appearance. Surgery to repair the lip is usually done between 3-6 months, while surgery to repair the palate is usually conducted between 9 and 12 months.

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Hearing Services

If affected by cleft palate, the child is more susceptible to inflammation in the middle ear, which can result in hearing loss. Early screenings and simple treatments such as ear tubes are important preventative services.

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Dental and Orthodontics

Clefts increase susceptibility to dental anomalies and malposition, increasing risks for caries and gum disease. It is important to start early with pediatric dental care involving caregivers and trained professionals.

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Speech Services

Development of normal speech and language habits can be altered by cleft. Caregivers should receive early guidance on how to work with their child at home, and the child should regularly be screened for possible therapy.

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Counseling and Support

It is important for families to work with their cleft team to address any challenges related to the cleft and its associate treatment so children can develop confidence and self-esteem

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Financial Assistance

Depending on where you live, cleft lip and/or palate surgeries and comprehensive cleft care can be expensive. While Smile Train primarily focuses on providing free cleft lip and/or palate surgery and comprehensive cleft care in developing countries, Smile Train also provides grants to accredited cleft teams in developed countries

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The journey to living a healthy life for a child with a cleft starts with a smile. That’s just the beginning. Access to comprehensive cleft care gives a child the best chance of optimal treatment results–a healthy and productive life.


Comprehensive cleft care ensures that all aspects of a child–nutritional status; teeth and jaw alignment; hearing, speech, and language development; social skills and self-esteem–are cared for throughout a child’s life.


Comprehensive cleft care brings cleft care professionals together from different disciplines to offer treatment in the most impactful and cost-effective way not only for a child, but also his/her family.