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What Are Cleft Palates?

Posted on 6/19/2023 by Dr. Shaun Rai
What Are Cleft Palates?Cleft palates and cleft lips are some of the most rewarding surgeries oral surgeons do during their practices because they are able to correct a problem and allow a child to eat and speak normally. Cleft palates are a common defect that babies are born with.

Describing A Cleft Palate

You can see a cleft palate quite easily if you look in a baby's mouth. With cleft palates, the roof of the baby's mouth has a gap in it where the soft tissues don't meet. Cleft palates can be small, and only involve a narrow opening, or they can be large, with much of the roof of the mouth not closed properly.

Babies can have both cleft palates and cleft lips. Over 3.5 million babies come into the world each year in the United States. The number of babies with cleft palate is less than 20,000 babies per year. Some babies are born with a cleft palate as part of a larger genetic defect. Van Der Woude Syndrome often occurs with cleft palate, for example. Others are born with cleft lip or cleft palate without other genetic defects.

When babies have cleft palates, they usually need surgery. Most oral surgeons want babies to have cleft lip surgery within the first year of life. Surgeons perform cleft palate surgery within the first 18 months of life. Surgeons may operate on some children with severe cleft palates more than once to fix the problem completely. If they don't get surgery, children may have difficulty eating or speaking normally.


If you're thinking about conceiving a child and you worry your baby may be born with a cleft palate, try to incorporate folate, or folic acid, into your diet. You can begin taking prenatal vitamins, or you can eat whole grains and leafy greens to make sure you are getting plenty of folic acid. That will give your baby the best chance to be born without a cleft lip or a cleft palate.

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