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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Exp 50 years

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Article Home Children's Health Cleft lip and cleft palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects which affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth. This occurs when the tissues which form the roof of mouth and upper lip do not join before birth. It can lead to difficulty with eating, talking and ear infections.



Boys are more affected than girls.

Cleft lip:

            If the cleft does not affect the palate of the mouth, it is referred to as cleft lip. It is formed in the upper lip, either as a small gap or an indentation in the lip (partial of incomplete cleft) or it can continue to the nose (complete cleft). The lip cleft can occur on one side (unilateral), or on both sides (bilateral). It occurs due to failure of fusion of the maxillary.

Cleft palate:

            It is condition in which two palates of the skull that form the hard palate are not completely joined. It is usually accompanied by cleft lip. It can be complete or incomplete. In this case it usually accompanied by splitting of uvula. It occurs due to failure of fusion of lateral palatine process, nasal septum and/or the median palatine processes.

Causes of cleft:

  • Genetic factor.
  • Environmental pollutants.
  • Consumption of alcohol in pregnancy.
  • Smoking during pregnancy.
  • Use of anticonvulsant during pregnancy.
  • Nutritional imbalance in mother’s diet during pregnancy.

Complications of clefts:

  • Sucking: It causes difficulty in sucking. This create negative suction effect leading to regurgitation through nose in cases of cleft palate.
  • Repeated chest infections: Due to abnormality in sucking and swallowing mechanism the milk often trickles on to the air passages causing chest infections.
  • Ear infections.
  • Defective in teeth alignment.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Speech problems.


  • Treatment is mainly the surgical repair.
  • The cleft lip repair is done between birth and 3 months.
  • Cleft palate repair is done by the age of one year. Follow –up surgeries are done between age 2 and late teen years.