Cleft palate and cleft lip 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 palate is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate or the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth, and may, or may not include the soft palate or the soft back portion of the roof of the mouth.
Cleft palate and cleft lip 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, with or without cleft palate, is the fourth most common birth defect in the U.S. and affects one in 700 babies annually. Clefts occur more often in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent. Compared with boys, twice as many girls have cleft palate without a cleft lip. However compared with girls, twice as many boys have a cleft lip, both with and without a cleft palate.