Cleft lip is a birth defect in which the parts of the face that form the upper lip remain split, instead of sealing together before birth. Similar splits can occur in the roof of the mouth or palate. Cleft lip and cleft palate can each occur alone or together in the same person (cleft lip and palate). Cleft lip and palate happen early in fetal development. The defect may be genetic or the result of maternal environmental exposures during pregnancy.

Along with affecting the appearance of the face, cleft lip and cleft palate can present a variety of difficulties, including:

  • difficulty eating
  • speech difficulties
  • ear infections
  • misaligned teeth

It is possible to correct both cleft lip and palate through surgery, usually performed between the ages of 3 to 6 months. Depending on the severity of the defect, more than one surgery may be necessary. Cleft lip and/or palate are normally diagnosed at birth, though minor cleft palates may be overlooked at first. Talk with your physician and dentist for a physical examination and more information about possible treatments if a cleft is suspected.

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