Cleft palate is a fairly common type of birth defect in which the tissue in the roof of the mouth (the palate) does not grow together the way it should.
Sometimes the problem affects only part of the palate, but in other cases both the front and back parts of the palate are open. It may be present on one or both sides of the palate.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are called orofacial clefts, which is one of the most common groups of birth defects. Cleft lip may occur alone or with cleft palate. The cause is generally not known, but heredity and exposure to certain substances, including alcohol or tobacco, may increase the risk.
Cleft palate is generally diagnosed at birth. Surgery usually is recommended during the baby’s first year. Additional surgery, treatments and therapy to address problems including speech and hearing, may be needed over a period of several years.