Location of hard palate and soft palate on roof of mouth, showing normal roof of mouth and one with cleft in soft palate

Cleft palate is a birth defect in which the roof of the mouth (palate) does not develop normally during pregnancy, leaving an opening (cleft).

The palate has two parts that can be affected by a cleft. The hard palate is in the front, closer to where the front teeth will come in. The soft palate is in the back, toward the throat.

Sometimes the cleft is just in the soft palate, and other times it may extend into the hard palate and even into the nasal cavity.

A cleft is corrected with one or more surgeries.

Current as of: December 12, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam David Schaffner MD, FACS - Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology