What is Cleft?

Globally, 1 in every 700 children are born with a cleft
lip and/or palate. Clefts are the leading birth defect in
many developing countries.

  • What are cleft lips and palates?

    A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during fetal development. Clefts can involve the lip and/or the roof of the mouth, which is made up of both hard and soft palate. In developing countries, the vast majority of children with clefts will never receive the reconstructive surgery they need.

  • How common are clefts?

    There are varying opinions on the actual incidence of clefts, but most experts agree that, in part, it depends on ethnicity. Some experts say that the highest cleft incidences are among Asians (approximately 1 in 500 births). Caucasians have an average incidence of 1 in 700 births and individuals of African descent have the lowest incidence of approximately 1 in 1,200 births.

  • What are the causes of cleft lip and palate?

    No one knows exactly, but most experts agree that the causes of cleft lip and/or palate are multifactorial and may include a genetic predisposition as well as environmental issues such as drug and alcohol use, smoking, maternal illness, infections, or lack of Vitamin B, also known as folic acid. In most cases, it is not known what has caused a cleft lip and/or palate, but research is ongoing to better understand the condition.

  • What does it mean to be a child with an untreated cleft in a developing country?

    Children with untreated clefts not only live in isolation, but also face physical difficulties with eating, breathing, and speaking. As a result, most of these children don't attend school or ever hold a job.

  • Can clefts be treated?

    Reconstructive surgery for clefts has evolved over more than half a century, and today’s techniques and procedures have come a long way. The surgery today is simple and the transformation is immediate. Patients see their smile for the first time, parents cry tears of joy, and lives and communities are changed forever.

  • How can I help?

    For just $250, you can help cover the costs of a cleft surgery, transforming a child’s life forever.

Are you a parent of a child with a cleft lip and/or palate? Check out our Patient Care section.