Idaho Oral & Facial Surgeon | Liberty Oral Surgery |


Cleft lip and cleft palate defects occur in about 1 out of every 800 pregnancies. The problem occurs during the development of the face and palate in utero, when the developing sections of the face don’t join properly. If the sections don’t line up in the child’s lip area, then the child is said to have a cleft lip; a cleft palate develops when sections of the palate do not connect correctly.

A skilled Oral Surgeon is needed to repair the cleft. With modern surgical techniques, the cleft can be repaired with barely even a scar to mark the damaged area. Dr. McLelland, a skilled oral surgeon, is experienced in cleft lip and cleft palate repair and has been on the Spokane Maxillofacial Team since 2003 helping patients with cleft lip and palate and facial deformities. The Spokane Maxillofacial Team is the Inland Northwest’s only cleft lip and palate board.


The most immediately apparent answer is to improve the child’s appearance, but the truth is that when a cleft lip or cleft palate is not repaired, it can cause significant challenges throughout life.

Proper lip and palate formation is necessary for such basic functions as sucking; thus, a child with a cleft lip or cleft palate may not be able to feed properly, leading to malnutrition and other issues.

Your palate is the hard part of your mouth above your tongue. It’s made up of bone, muscle, and soft tissue. An important function of the palate is keeping the oral and nasal cavities separate. When the palate isn’t joined properly, food and liquids can easily move between the mouth and the nose, making eating difficult and increasing the risk of choking. Breathing difficulties are also a possibility.

The palate and lips also play a role in speaking, and a cleft lip or palate can hamper a child’s speech development.


Repairing the cleft is vital, and a skilled oral surgeon like Dr. McLelland will be a key part of your family’s team. Once the cleft itself is repaired, you can expect other therapies to be necessary as well, so your team will also likely include professionals in the fields of speech, feeding, hearing, and psychology.

Fortunately, with a team of skilled professionals, the outcome of the surgery and following therapies is likely to be excellent.


Dr. McLelland will plan surgical treatment for cleft lip or cleft palate with these goals in mind:

  • Closing the space (the cleft) between the two sides of the lip or palate
  • Connecting the muscles so that they can grow and function correctly
  • Making sure that the joined palate has enough space so that it functions appropriately.

Every child is different, and cleft lips and cleft palates do vary. For instance, cleft lips can occur on one side (a unilateral cleft) or both sides (bilateral cleft). A cleft palate can be as small as a notch in the gumline or continue down the entire palate.

Dr. McLelland will discuss your child’s needs with you and let you know what you can expect from the surgery and also any issues that may arise. For example, occasionally, splits in the repair occur, and sometimes a hole, called a fistula, can develop, which may require another surgery.

If your child was born with a cleft lip or palate, surgical repair could be life saving. Call our Spokane oral surgery office today or our Post Falls oral surgery office today to schedule your consultation with Dr. McLelland.