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Cleft lip

Cleft Lip & Palate

Cleft lip with or without cleft palate is among the most common of birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the United States:

  • About 1 in every 1,600 babies is born with cleft lip with cleft palate
  • About 1 in every 2,800 babies is born with cleft lip without cleft palate
  • About 1 in every 1,700 babies is born with cleft palate

In the earliest days of a baby’s development in the womb, there is normally a split (called a cleft) between the right and left sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth (called the palate). Sometime during 6 – 11 weeks of pregnancy, this split comes together to form the lips and mouth. If the tissue doesn’t join, it can cause a cleft lip or a cleft palate.

The opening in a cleft lip can be a small slit or a large split that extends from the lip into the nose. The cleft can be on one side or both sides of the lip, or in the middle. The opening in a cleft palate may affect the front, or back, or both parts of the palate.

A baby may be born with only a cleft lip or a cleft palate, but some babies are born with both.

Children with a cleft lip or a cleft palate, depending on the size of the openings, may have problems eating and breathing. As they grow older, they may also have speech and language delays. Children with cleft lip or palate are also more likely to have ear infections, hearing loss, and problems with their teeth.

View additional resources from the NIDCR here.

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