Cleft Lip and/or Palate

Also known as: Orofacial cleft, cleft palate, cleft lip, clefting

What is Cleft Lip/Palate?

The tissues that make up the lip and palate (roof of the mouth) fuse together between the fourth and twelfth weeks of pregnancy. A cleft lip and/or palate is characterized by the presence of a gap (split) in the lip and/or palate seen at birth when the tissues of the lip and/or palate don't come together at all, or come together only part of the way. As the lip and the palate develop separately, a baby may have one or the other, on one or both sides of the mouth, or both together. Boys tend to have more cleft lips while girls have twice as many cleft palates. Clefting can vary in type and severity.

What causes cleft lip/palate?

In most cases, it appears to be caused by an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Many times no definite cause can be found. The risk increases when there is a family history of a cleft, when a mother smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol or takes certain medications.

What are the symptoms of cleft lip/palate?

In addition to the physical signs that affect appearance, cleft lips/cleft palates can lead to problems with feeding, speaking, hearing and teeth development.

What are cleft lip/palate care options?

Clefts are typically treated with surgery very early in life. This usually occurs in the first few months and is recommended before the baby is a year old. At Nicklaus Children's Hospital, a multidisciplinary team of specialists will ensure that the many complex health issues that may arise will be optimally managed.


Reviewed by: Chad A. Perlyn, MD

This page was last updated on: November 16, 2020 11:32 AM

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The Craniofacial Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital is Florida’s only specialty center for children with craniofacial disorders offering comprehensive management for infants, children, and young adults with craniofacial disorders.

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Abraham's mother was seven months pregnant when she found out her son was diagnosed prenatally with cleft lip and palate. Worried about her baby's future, she began a search for answers that led her to the Craniofacial Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, where she became the first parent to consult with the program about a prenatal patient. At 6 months of age, Abraham underwent the first of many surgeries. Read More.

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