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Cleft Lip

Conditions We Treat

Cleft lip is a term that describes a separation in the lip that happens when the lip does not form completely before birth. Normally, the tissues that make up the lip join together between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy.

About 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip each year in the U.S. Cleft lips are more common in boys than girls. In the U.S., cleft lips also are most common among Native Americans and least common among African Americans.

Cleft Lip Diagnosis

A cleft lip is usually noticed right away after birth. It may be diagnosed before birth through a routine ultrasound.

Cleft lip may be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. A baby is at a higher risk of being born with a cleft lip if the pregnant person:

  • Has diabetes
  • Is overweight during pregnancy
  • Has a family history of cleft lip
  • Smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol or takes certain medicines during pregnancy

Cleft Lip Symptoms

A cleft lip can range from a small notching in the lip to a large opening from the lip up through the nose. It may appear with or without a cleft palate. A cleft palate is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth.

Cleft lip can affect a person’s physical appearance, as well as their eating and speaking.

Cleft Lip Surgery

At Phoenix Children’s, our surgeons can often correct a cleft lip with surgery performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon makes incisions on both sides of the cleft, creating flaps of tissue that they stitch together.

Cleft lip repair often happens during the first 12 months of a baby’s life.

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