Understanding the Cleft Lip and Palate

There are two parts to the cleft lip and palate:

  • Hard Palate 
    This is made of bone Separates the nose from the mouth
  • Soft Palate 
    This is made of muscles. These muscles play an important role in speaking. The most important muscle to know is called Levator Muscle. When the muscles 'contract' it pulls up the soft palate so that all of the air goes through the mouth to speak. This then completely separates the nose from the mouth.

    Think of mouth like a musical instrument. Musical sounds are made by changing the air that is flowing through the instrument. In a trumpet or saxophone, pushing the keys up and down changes the flow of the air. All the air that our lungs make needs to flow through the mouth.

Understanding the Effect of Cleft Lip and Palate

To understand how a baby is affected by a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, it helps to know what a normal lip and palate look like and the medical names so that you can better understand how we can care for your child. Learning medical terms will help your communication with our staff.

How Does It Happen

We know that about there are 7,500 babies are born with a cleft palate and/or a cleft lip each year.  It is the most common birth defect according to the Center for Disease Control that keep statistics.  You are not alone. 

Many parents will ask us how does a cleft lip and palate happen. 
Here are some things we want you to understand:  

  • There are many different reasons why a cleft lip and/or cleft palate occur. There is no one answer.  
  • Some occur because of a genetic defect. Sometimes it runs in family. Sometimes it is the first time it occurs in a family, and then it may or may not appear again.  
  • Some occur because of what we call outside (or environmental) factors. The face is formed by the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, and a cleft can occur when the mother might eat, drink or come in contact with early in the pregnancy. This is before many mothers may even know they are pregnant. We know smoking, diabetes and certain medications may increase the risk of a child with a cleft.