Cleft Lip and Palate

 

Condition Description

A cleft is a congenital defect where there is a separation or divide in the mouth. A cleft lip is an opening in the lip. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. In a cleft lip there is a separation of the sides of the upper lip. Cleft lip and/or cleft palate are due to failure of fetal tissues to properly come together to form the lips and roof of the mouth (palate). These facial structures are formed between the 6th and 10th weeks of fetal life. The palate has 2 parts: the “hard palate”, which is bone, and the “soft palate”, which is the mucous membrane at the back of the roof of the mouth. Cleft palate can involve only the soft palate, or it can also extend towards the teeth and involve the hard palate as well. The cleft can be on the left, right or in the middle of the palate. Children can be born with a variety of cleft types and with variable severity. The cause of clefts remains unknown but many possible causes are being investigated. A combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role in the fusion process and lack of closure to the facial structures, but no single cause has been identified. There is a genetic pattern for cleft lip and palate in many cases, with a different inheritance pattern for each type of cleft. Maternal smoking, alcohol use and folic acid deficiency can be associated with the development of cleft lip and palate in the fetus. Medications that treat a mother's seizure disorder may also be linked to development of this congenital defect. Cleft lip and palate is a common birth defect. It occurs together in 1 of every 1,000 babies, somewhat more in males than females. About 20% have the cleft lip only, 30% have cleft palate only, and 50% of children with a cleft lip will also have a cleft palate. About 400 syndromes have cleft lip and palate as part of the affected systems. About 13% of babies with cleft lip and palate have other birth defects. Feeding problems, ear infections and speech difficulties as well as dental problems are associated with cleft lip and palate.

Cleft lip only (without cleft palate)
Our program has been tracking cleft lip only (without cleft palate) among live births in select counties since 2005 and are gradually expanding statewide.

  • Using data from births to Hennepin and Ramsey county residents between 2007-2011, we found that 3.4 babies were born with cleft lip only (without cleft palate) per 10,000 births.
  • Using this data, we estimate about 25 babies are born with cleft lip only (without cleft palate) every year in Minnesota.

Cleft lip with cleft palate
Our program has been tracking cleft lip with cleft palate among live births in select counties since 2005 and are gradually expanding statewide.

  • Using data from births to Hennepin and Ramsey county residents between 2007-2011, we found that 6 babies were born with cleft lip with cleft palate per 10,000 births.
  • Using this data, we estimate about 42 babies are born with cleft lip with cleft palate every year in Minnesota.

Cleft palate only (without cleft lip)
Our program has been tracking cleft palate only (without cleft lip) among live births in select counties since 2005 and are gradually expanding statewide.

  • Using data from births to Hennepin and Ramsey county residents between 2007-2011, we found that 5.6 babies were born with cleft palate only (without cleft lip) per 10,000 births.
  • Using this data, we estimate about 39 babies are born with cleft palate only (without cleft lip) every year in Minnesota.

Parental education and support are essential, and local, regional and national organizations may be very helpful.

Condition specific organizations

Additional information and resources for families are available.