Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate
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child with left lip



Cleft lips and palates are conditions caused when the bones or tissues of the skull and face do not fuse together during development in the womb. Clefts (the opening or separation) are described using the following criteria:

  • based on the structures affected (lip, alveolus, hard palate (front, bony part of the roof of the mouth), soft palate (back of the roof of the mouth))
  • based on the dominant side of the affected area (only the left side ('unilateral left'), only the right side ('unilateral right'), both sides ('bilateral')) 
  • based on the severity and extent of the structures involved

Clefts can be isolated (cleft lip only or cleft palate only), or they can occur in combination. They can be unilateral or bilateral, and they can be complete or incomplete. Palatal clefts also have the additional classification of overt (visibly open) or submucous (underneath the tissue that covers the palate). 


How can a Speech-Language Pathologist help?

Speech-Language Pathologists can help by:

  • assessing the individual's articulation, resonance (the amplification, richness and quality of your voice) and differences in anatomy relating to a possible cleft
  • recommending therapy to compensate for articulation errors that result from the opening (the cleft)
  • working as part of a cleft palate-craniofacial team to treat and assess patients alongside Audiologists, Oral and Craniofacial Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons and other health professionals
  • suggesting that a referral be made for surgical or medical intervention 

 Find a Speech-Language Pathologist or Audioloigst