Cleft lip and palate is a condition that affects the way the lips and mouth develop. The upper lip may be split in half or there may be a gap in the roof of the mouth (palate). This can happen when the tissue that makes up these parts of the face doesn’t fuse together properly during development in the womb.

Cleft lip and palate can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, there may only be a small notch in the lip. In more severe cases, the cleft may go all the way through the upper lip and include part of the nose. The cleft in the palate may also be very wide, extending from the back of the mouth to the nose.

Causes of Cleft Lip:

  • Cleft lip and palate is a common birth defect. It occurs in about 1 in 700 births in the United States. It is more common in certain ethnic groups, including Asians and Native Americans. Cleft lip and palate is also more common in boys than girls.
  • The cause of cleft lip and palate is not fully understood. It is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Having a family member with cleft lip or palate increases the risk of having the condition. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk.


  • Treatment for cleft lip and palate depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may only require surgery to close the cleft in the lip. More severe cases may require surgery to close the cleft in the lip and palate, as well as speech therapy and orthodontic treatment.
  • The goal of treatment is to improve the function and appearance of the lips and mouth, while also preventing complications such as hearing loss and dental problems. Treatment is typically started soon after birth.

Cleft Lip and Palate surgery:

  • Cleft lip and palate surgery is performed to close the cleft in the lips and/or palate. The type of surgery performed depends on the severity of the cleft.
  • For mild cases, surgery may only be needed to close the cleft in the lip. This is typically done using a skin graft from another part of the body.
  • For more severe cases, surgery may be needed to close the cleft in both the lip and palate. This is typically done using tissue from the lining of the mouth (mucosa). The operation is usually performed in two stages, with the first stage done when the child is around 3 months old and the second stage done around 9 to 12 months old.
  • After surgery, the child will need to see a plastic surgeon for follow-up care. The surgeon will monitor the healing process and make sure that the child is on track for normal development.


Cleft lip and palate can cause problems with eating, drinking, and speaking. It can also lead to hearing loss and other health problems. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include surgery to close the cleft, speech therapy, and orthodontic treatment.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with cleft lip and palate, talk to your doctor about the best treatment option. There are many resources available to help you cope with the condition and get the treatment you need.