Both cleft lip and cleft palate are treatable. Most kids born with these can have reconstructive surgery within the first 12 to 18 months of life to correct the defect and significantly improve facial appearance.
These clefts occurs when the tissues of the lip and/or palate of a fetus don't grow together early in pregnancy. Children with clefts often don't have enough tissue in their mouths, and the tissue they do have isn't fused together properly to form the roof of their mouths.
A cleft lip appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip that extends all the way to the base of the nose. A cleft palate is an opening between the roof of the mouth and the nasal cavity. Some kids have clefts that extend through both the front and rear part of the palates, while others have only partial clefting.
The three common kinds of clefts are:
cleft lip without a cleft palate
cleft palate without a cleft lip
cleft lip and cleft palate together
In addition, clefts can occur on one side of the mouth (unilateral clefting) or on both sides of the mouth (bilateral clefting).
More boys than girls have a cleft lip, while more girls have cleft palate without a cleft lip.
Because clefting causes specific visible symptoms, it's easy to diagnose. It can be detected through a prenatal ultrasound. If the clefting has not been detected prior to the baby's birth, it's identified immediately afterward.