A cleft palate, or orofacial cleft, is a birth defect that occurs when the tissue forming the roof of the mouth does not form properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The front, back, or both front and back parts of the palate remain open.
Researchers are not sure why babies develop orofacial clefts, notes the CDC. They believe it may be due to genetic makeup, smoking during pregnancy, diabetes and the use of certain medications during the first trimester of pregnancy. Children with cleft palate often undergo surgery to correct the condition. Even with surgery, children with orofacial clefts may have feeding, hearing or speaking problems, depending on the cleft’s severity.