Cleft palate is a birth defect in which the roof of the mouth (palate) has an opening (cleft) that may go through to the nasal cavity. A cleft can form on any part of the palate. It can form on the front part of the roof of the mouth (hard palate) or the small flap of tissue that hangs down from the soft palate (uvula). Sometimes there are also problems with the nasal septum or nasal cavity.
Cleft palate is usually noticed at birth during a newborn's first physical exam. It often occurs with cleft lip.
This defect forms early in pregnancy. It may be inherited from either birth parent, or it may happen because of unhealthy habits during pregnancy, such as drinking alcohol.
Surgery is used to treat cleft palate. Until it's treated, it can cause problems with feeding, speech development, and hearing. A baby may need help with feeding, such as a special nipple on the baby's bottle. Severe cases of cleft palate often require more surgeries and treatment, such as speech therapy.
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