According to Boston Children’s Hospital, there are two palate sections (areas of the roof of the mouth) that can have a cleft (gap) in them. These parts include the:
- Hard palate, which is located around the top row of teeth.
- Soft palate, which is located at the back of the mouth.
Someone with a cleft palate can:
- Have a cleft in one or both of these palate types.
- Have an additional cleft lip.
- Have a cleft that appears either on one side of the mouth or on both sides.
- Have clefts which make both sides of the top lift fuse together at varying degrees (someone can also have no fusion of both upper lip sides).
Scientists believe that genetic factors or environmental factors such as certain medications, tobacco and alcohol, vitamin deficiency or viral illness may give a child a cleft palate. However, they still do not know exactly what makes them happen. They do know that children with cleft palates will always have them when they are born, and they may be diagnosed then or even before through prenatal ultrasound.
A cleft palate may make it more challenging to do tasks such as feeding, hearing or speaking. However, the severity of cleft palates varies, and it can be treated through surgeries. Additional services, such as speech and language services, may also be helpful, as researchers Mahsa M. Yazdy et. al. noted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that with treatment, most children with cleft palates "do well and lead a healthy life."