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Symptoms and Signs of Cleft Palate

Doctor's Notes on Cleft Palate

A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth (palate) that extends to the nose. Complete cleft palate syndromes are often accompanied by a cleft lip (an opening or split in the upper lip extending to the nose). There are three types: incomplete (starts at back of mouth but does not reach the front of the mouth), complete (opening extends from back to front of mouth), and submucous (mucosa covers opening). Signs and symptoms of cleft palate syndromes may not be present in some children until they are older. However, they include one or more of the following:

  • Trouble nursing or drinking from a bottle in newborns and babies
  • Problems swallowing
  • Feeding difficulties in babies
  • Ear infections/temporary hearing loss
  • Nasal speaking voice
  • Problems with tooth development (small teeth, missing or extra teeth, and crooked teeth) and physical deformity
  • Speech difficulties or disorders like stuttering, impaired voice
  • Mouth breathing
  • Snoring
  • Nasal congestion
  • Psychological and social problems like low self-confidence, depression, anxiety, and difficulty making friends

Although a cleft palate may be a birth defect and may be hereditary, most researchers consider it to be caused by an interaction of genes and environment. Currently, medical researchers have not determined a cause. Oral surgery may cure many patients.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/19/2020


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.