Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Cleft Palate
Cleft palate is a birth defect in which the roof of the mouth (palate) does not develop normally during pregnancy, leaving an opening (cleft) that may go through to the nasal cavity. Until treated surgically, cleft palate can interfere with feeding, speech development, and hearing.
Cleft palate is usually noticed at birth during a newborn's first physical examination. The condition often occurs with cleft lip; sometimes problems linked with cleft palate also include deformities of the nasal septum or nasal cavity. The severity and type of cleft palate vary according to where the cleft occurs on the palate and whether all the layers of the palate are affected.
This defect forms early in fetal development if the bone and tissue of the upper jaw do not completely join. It may be inherited or develop as a result of maternal environmental exposures during pregnancy, such as consumption of alcohol.
Surgery is used to correct cleft palate; complex problems usually require more surgeries and treatment, such as speech therapy. Before the defect is repaired, special assistance may be required for feeding, such as using a special nipple on the baby's bottle.
Current as of:
March 27, 2018
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Adam D. Schaffner, MD, FACS - Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.