Cleft lip and cleft palate happen while the baby is developing inside the expectant mother and are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.
A cleft lip appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip and is a separation or physical split of the two sides of the upper lip. This split or separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.
Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. Because the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible to have a cleft lip without a cleft palate, a cleft palate without a cleft lip, or both together.
Who Gets Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?
Cleft lip is the fourth most common birth defect in the U.S. with or without cleft palate, and affects one in 700 babies annually. Clefts occur more often in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent. Compared with girls, twice as many boys have a cleft lip, both with and without a cleft palate. However, compared with boys, twice as many girls have cleft palate without a cleft lip.