Cleft lip and cleft palate, also known as orofacial cleft, is a group of conditions that includes cleft lip (CL), cleft palate (CP), and both together (CLP). A cleft lip contains an opening in the upper lip that may extend into the nose. The opening may be on one side, both sides, or in the middle. A cleft palate is when the roof of the mouth contains an opening into the nose. These disorders can result in feeding problems, speech problems, hearing problems, and frequent ear infections. Less than half the time the condition is associated with other disorders.
An orofacial (or-oh-FAY-shul) cleft is when a baby is born with an opening in the lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). Cleft lip and cleft palate happen in about 1 or 2 of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year, making it one of the most common birth defects.
Both cleft lip and cleft palate are treatable. Most kids can have surgery to repair them within the first year or two of life.
During the first 6 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the bones and tissues of a baby's upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. A cleft happens when parts of the lip and mouth do not completely fuse together.
A cleft lip may just look like a small opening on the edge of the lip, or it could extend into the nose. It may also extend into the gums. A cleft palate can vary in size. It could affect just the soft palate, which is near the back of the throat, or it also could make a hole in the hard palate toward the front of the mouth.
A cleft can be on one side of the mouth (unilateral clefting) or on both sides of the mouth (bilateral clefting).
Most clefts fit into one of three categories:
If your child has a cleft lip and/or palate, your pediatrician will talk to you about a cleft lip and palate treatment team. This team of health care professionals will work together to meet your family's needs and, ultimately, help your child transition to adult care.
Besides the pediatrician, your child's treatment team may include:
Your child might visit this care team a few times a year, depending on his or her needs. Who is seen during a visit depends on the care team's structure and your child's needs. The team coordinator will help organize the visits, and the team should communicate with your doctor about the treatment plan.