Skip to Content
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
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:
November 20, 2015
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Adam David Schaffner, MD, FACS - Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
© Copyright 2017 Rush-Copley Medical Center • 2000 Ogden Avenue; Aurora, IL 60504
Main: 630-978-6200 • Physician Referral & Information: 630-978-6700 or 866-4COPLEY (866-426-7539)