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: December 18, 2020 04:59 PM
Weekly Support Programs
The 40-foot mobile unit is Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s latest endeavor to assist families in need as part of its vision “to be where the children are” in South Florida and beyond. In addition to screenings and exams, services can include varnish treatments, dental sealants, oral and health hygiene education as well as referrals for follow-up oral treatment, to underserved families of children who do not have dental insurance.
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For many newborns with a cleft lip or palate, reconstructive treatment can begin soon after birth with use of a pre-surgical device known as a nasoalveolar molding (NAM) appliance.
Cleft Lip and Palate Repair
Cleft lip and palate are common facial birth defects that are often seen together. They involve a gap in the lip and palate of the newborn baby. Cleft lip and palate repair refers to the surgical procedures that are used to repair these problems.