During pregnancy, some parents learn their child will be born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. Other families find out at birth. Fortunately, cleft-repair surgery keeps improving. Eventually, tiny, faded scars between the mouth and nose may be the only visible signs. However, treatment – which encompasses far more than appearance – can take an entire childhood to complete.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital conditions. Cleft lip is a split or gap in the area between an infant’s lip and nose, where the skin and muscle have not completely joined. Cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth, either affecting the hard palate, soft palate or both. One or both sides of the developing face may be affected.