Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate, and Cleft Uvula
A cleft lip is the presence of one or two vertical fissures (clefts) in the upper lip. The cleft lip can be on one side only (unilateral) or on both sides (bilateral). The condition results from failure of the normal process of fusion of the lip to come to completion during embryonic life. Cleft lip is one of the most common physical birth defects. On the average, one baby per 1,000 is born with a cleft lip.
Cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth (the palate) due to a failure of the palatal shelves to come fully together from either side of the mouth and fuse, as they normally should, during embryonic development. The opening in the palate permits communication between the nasal passages and the mouth. Surgery is needed to close the palate. Cleft palate is a common physical birth defects, although not as common as cleft lip. About one baby in 2,000 is born with cleft palate versus one baby in 1,000 with cleft lip. A cleft palate prosthesis is a prosthetic device designed to close the opening left by a cleft in the palate and thereby to improve feeding and speech.
The uvula is the little V-shaped fleshy mass hanging from the back of the soft palate, When the two sides of the uvula do not fuse in embryonic development, the result is a cleft or split uvula. Cleft uvula, also called bifid uvula, is a common minor anomaly occurring in about 1% of whites and 10% of Native Americans. Persons with a cleft uvula should not have their adenoids removed because, without the adenoids, they cannot achieve proper closure between the soft palate and pharynx while speaking and they thus develop hypernasal speech.