Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Openings or cracks in the upper lip, the palate, or both are known as cleft lip and cleft palate, respectively. When a developing baby's facial tissues don't fully seal, it can lead to cleft lip and cleft palate.

The most prevalent birth malformations are cleft lip and cleft palate. Although they most frequently manifest as solitary birth abnormalities, they are also linked to a variety of inherited genetic diseases or syndromes.

Although having a child with a cleft might be unpleasant, cleft lip and palate can be fixed. In the majority of infants, a series of operations can attain a more normal look and restore normal function with little scarring.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Causes

When tissues in the baby's face and mouth don't correctly fuse, cleft lip and cleft palate develop. During the second and third months of pregnancy, the tissues that make up the lip and palate often fuse. Nevertheless, the fusion either never happens or happens partially in infants with cleft lip and cleft palate, leaving a hole (cleft).

Most cleft lip and cleft palate instances, according to researchers, are brought on by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. A concrete reason isn't found in many infants.

Clefting genes can be passed down from either the mother or the father, either individually or as part of a genetic condition that has a cleft lip or cleft palate as one of its symptoms. Sometimes a baby inherits a gene that increases their risk of developing a cleft, but the cleft is brought on by an environmental factor.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Symptoms

A split (cleft) in the lip or palate is typically obvious from birth. The symptoms of cleft lip and palate include −

  • One or both sides of the face may be affected by a split in the lip and palate (roof of the mouth).

  • A lip split that just looks like a little notch in the lip or that extends through the upper gum and palate and into the base of the nose

  • A gap in the roof of the mouth that has no impact on facial appearance

Less frequently, a cleft only affects the soft palate muscles (submucous cleft palate), which are in the rear of the mouth and protected by the lining of the mouth.

This kind of cleft is frequently undetected at birth and may not be identified until later when symptoms manifest. Submucous cleft palate symptoms and signs might include −

  • Having trouble eating

  • Swallowing issues that might cause food or fluids to leak out of the nose

  • Speaking with a nasal tone

  • Persistent ear infections

When to Visit a Doctor?

Your doctor may begin coordinating treatment when they discover that your child has a cleft lip and palate, which is often discovered at delivery. Make an appointment with your baby's doctor if they see any of the signs and symptoms of a submucous cleft palate.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Risk Factors

Cleft lip and palate development in infants may be influenced by several variables, including −

  • Family background. Cleft babies are more likely to be born to parents who have a family history of cleft lip or cleft palate.

  • Exposure to certain chemicals when pregnant. Pregnant women who smoke, drink, or take certain drugs may be at an increased risk of developing cleft lip and palate.

  • Diabetes. According to some data, pregnant women who were previously diagnosed with diabetes may be more likely to give birth to children who have cleft lips or palates.

  • Becoming overweight when pregnant. There is some evidence to suggest that children born to obese mothers may be more likely to have cleft lip and palate.

Whether they have a cleft palate or not, males are more likely to develop a cleft lip. Females are more likely to have cleft palate without cleft lip.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Diagnosis

The majority of cleft lip and cleft palate instances are identified at birth and don't need any additional testing to be diagnosed. More often than not, cleft lip and cleft palate may be noticed during an ultrasound before the infant is even born.

Sonograms before childbirth

During a prenatal ultrasound, sound waves are used to produce images of the growing fetus. A doctor may notice a variation in the face structures after reviewing the images.

From about the 13th week of pregnancy, ultrasonography can identify a cleft lip. Accurately diagnosing a cleft lip may get simpler as the fetus continues to develop. When a cleft palate develops on its own, ultrasonography imaging is more challenging.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Treatment

Cleft lip and palate therapy aims to restore a child's ability to eat, speak, and hear normally as well as to give them a normal facial look.

Many doctors and specialists work together to treat kids with cleft lip and palate, including −

  • Cleft repair specialists, including plastic surgeons and ENTs

  • ENT surgeons

  • Doctors of ear, nose, and throat (ENTs, also called otorhinolaryngologists)

  • Pediatricians

  • Children's dentists

  • Orthodontists

  • Nurses

  • Experts in hearing or hearing

  • Speech pathologists

  • Counselling on genetics

  • Psychologists and social workers

Surgery is used to correct the defect, and treatments are used to treat any associated diseases.


The type of surgery required to treat cleft lip and palate depends on your child's specific circumstances. Your doctor can advise further procedures to enhance speech or the aesthetics of the lip and nose after the initial cleft repair.

Surgery is normally carried out in the following order −

  • Within the first three to six months of life Cleft lip repair by the age of 12 months, or sooner if possible Cleft palate repair

  • Follow-up operations — between the ages of 2 and late adolescence

A hospital is where cleft lip and palate surgery is performed. General anesthesia will be administered to your kid, so they won't be conscious or in discomfort during the procedure. The treatment of cleft lip and palate involves the use of a variety of surgical methods and techniques.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Prevention

Parents are naturally worried about the potential of having another child with the same problem once a kid is born with a cleft. While many cleft lip and cleft palate instances cannot be avoided, take the following actions to better understand the condition or reduce your risk −

  • Have a look at genetic counseling. Before getting pregnant, let your doctor know if there is a family history of cleft lip and palate. Your doctor could suggest that you speak with a genetic counselor who can assess your likelihood of giving birth to children with cleft lip and cleft palate.

  • Use pregnancy supplements. Ask your doctor if you should take prenatal vitamins if you intend to become pregnant soon.

  • Avoid using alcohol or cigarettes.

  • During pregnancy, using cigarettes or alcohol increases the chance of having a kid with a birth defect.


Both cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital deformities that have an impact on a variety of structures and functions, including speech problems, appearance, feeding, nutrition, and more. To attain functional and aesthetic well-being, patients with oro-facial cleft deformity must have treatment at the appropriate time and the appropriate age.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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