Usually, a cleft — or split — in the lip or palate is immediately identifiable at birth. Cleft lip and cleft palate may appear as:
- A split in the lip and roof of the mouth (palate) that can affect one or both sides of the face
- A split in the lip that can appear as only a small notch in the lip or can extend from the lip through the upper gum and palate into the bottom of the nose
- A split in the roof of the mouth (palate) that doesn't affect the appearance of the face
Less commonly, a cleft occurs only in the muscles of the soft palate (submucous cleft palate), which are at the back of the mouth and covered by the mouth's lining. This type of cleft often goes unnoticed at birth and may not be diagnosed until later when signs develop. Signs and symptoms of submucous cleft palate may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nasal speaking voice
- Recurring ear infections
When to see a doctor
A cleft lip and cleft palate are usually apparent at birth, and your doctor may start coordinating care at that time. If your baby has signs and symptoms of a submucous cleft palate, such as difficulty with feedings, make an appointment with your child's doctor.
Jun. 14, 2012
- Flint PW, et al. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05283-2..X0001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05283-2&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed May 24, 2012.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed May 24, 2012.
- Submucous clefts. Cleft Palate Foundation. http://www.cleftline.org/what-we-do/publications/fact-sheets/submucous-clefts/. Accessed May 25, 2012.
- Dixon MJ, et al. Cleft lip and palate: Understanding genetic and environmental influences. Nature Reviews Genetics. 2011;12:167.
- Wilkins-Haug L. Etiology, prenatal diagnosis, obstetrical management and recurrence of orofacial clefts. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 29, 2012.