Cleft Lip and Palate

This information is provided as background for parents who are seeking care for children with cleft lip and palate. You are encouraged to ask any questions you may have when you see the doctor or a member of our staff.



Cleft lips and cleft palates are birth defects that occur once in every 700 births.  Clefts occur among infants of all races with a 2:1 male-to-female ratio.  The severity of clefts can very greatly, with 46 percent involving both the lip and the palate, 21 percent affecting the lip alone, and 33 percent involving only the palate.

What it is

A cleft is a separation of parts of the lip or roof of the mouth formed in early development of the fetus.  Infants with these defects are born with all parts present but fail to fuse along the midline of the face prior to birth.  In most cases surgery is necessary to align and join these parts and to promote normal development of eating and speech.


There is no single known cause of cleft lip and palate.  Scientists continue to explore genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to the formation of clefts during development of the fetus.  If you know of other incidents of cleft lip or palate in your family's health history, we may recommend that you also talk with a geneticist to help us better understand the factors contributing to your child's development.


Children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate should be evaluated by a craniofacial team to diagnose the full extent of the deformity and to detect or rule out any other syndromes that are commonly associated with cleft lip and palate.  A craniofacial team may include an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, an ENT specialist, a plastic surgeon, a pediatric dentist, a pediatrician, as well as a speech pathologist and a geneticist.  This allows a comprehensive and systematic treatment plan to be developed that integrates the child's developmental needs with those of his requirements for medical, surgical, and dental care.

Conditions & Diseases

  • Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

    Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth abnormalities of the mouth and lip. Cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity. left lip is an abnormality in which the lip does not completely form during fetal development.


Contact Us

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Care Center (patients)

Wang Ambulatory Building

55 Fruit StreetSuite 230 Boston, MA 02114
  • Near Public Transit
  • Accessible
  • Phone: 617-726-2740
  • Fax: 617-726-6195


  • Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-5:00 pm

For patient appointments, please call 617-726-2740


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