Cleft Palate and Lip

Katie Lent

What is it?

  • Cleft, meaning "split, divided, or divided in two", is an appropriate name for this body condition because it is the split of the roof of the mouth and/or lip
  • Occurs most commonly in newborns and is fixable by surgery
  • No commons symptoms, noticeable by appearance either in ultrasound or after birth

How does it occur?

  • Birth defect caused by complications in the formation of the facial tissues in the womb
  • Tissues, or palatable shells fail to completely meet and attach at the roof of the mouth
  • Elements suspected to take part in causing this defect include both environmental and genetic occurrences such as smoking, pregnancy medications, obesity, diabetes, or being an elderly mother
  • Little is known about the mutation that occurs in the cells that causes cleft palate/ lip

Embryonic development with focus on cleft palate

Embryonic development with focus on cleft formation

Effects on daily life/ long term issues

  • Difficulties eating
  • Language/ speech delay
  • Irregular growth of teeth
  • More susceptible to ear/ sinus infections


  • Because little is known about the genetics behind cleft palate/ lip, and because it is a prenatal occurrence, there is no cure. However, there is an easily accessible surgery
  • Surgery is the only treatment for cleft palate/lip and must be done within the first 6-12 months of life to be most successful
  • There are a series of surgeries that occur in the corse of 18 years. The initial surgery is to fuse the tissues and essentially fix the issue, the following surgeries are performed to fix nasal, dental, and cosmetic issues caused by cleft palate/ lip

If I were a scientist...

Because cleft lip occurs in the womb, and because there is little information about the specifics of this condition, I think the best cure is awareness. Spreading the word and donating to causes that support cleft lip will help the development of studies on this topic and hopefully, with the help of civilians, we can find a cure.

Other information

  • Effects 1 in 700 babies
  • Fourth most common birth defect
  • Boys a more likely to have cleft lip with or without cleft palate but girls are more likely to have a cleft palate
  • More common in Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans
  • Also common in animals such as dogs like boxers and Boston Terriers and cattle