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A Healthy Smile is Just the Beginning®

A cleft is an opening in the lip and/or palate that occurs early in pregnancy where the developing facial structure does not fuse together completely. A cleft occurs in the upper lip and can be on either side, both sides, or in the middle. The cleft may also extend into the nose. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip and palate can occur together or separately.

Cleft is one of the most common congenital birth defects in the world, occurring on average in 1 of every 700 live births. Some populations have higher incidences of cleft, including people of Asian, Latino, and Native American descent. The exact cause of cleft is unknown, but researchers have identified several factors, both genetic and environmental, that may contribute to the condition. Environmental factors may include maternal smoking, drug and alcohol use, illness or infections, or lack of folic acid during pregnancy. Genetic factors may include ethnicity, consanguinity, and a family history of cleft.

Cleft occurs more frequently in underserved communities throughout the world. This is due in part because women have less access to basic healthcare and prenatal care as well as a higher rate of food insecurity and vitamin deficiency.  Researchers continue to explore why cleft occurs and how it can be prevented.

Children born with cleft face a difficult road ahead of them. Physically, their cleft may affect their eating, hearing, speaking, and breathing, while emotionally, these children may be bullied at school or hidden at home.

A child born with a cleft lip and/or palate can have a new, healthy smile with surgery. Global Smile Foundation’s goal is to treat our patients born with cleft lip ate the age of 3 months old and our patients born with cleft palate between 12-18 months old. Even after surgery, these children will also most likely need speech therapy, orthodontic treatment, and psycho-social support. Global Smile Foundation’s philosophy is to help every child born with a cleft to thrive by providing these comprehensive cleft care services throughout the child’s life into adulthood.

Types of Cleft


Unilateral – Right


Unilateral – Left