Physical examination for cleft palate or cleft lip

Physical examinations for cleft lip and cleft palate are fairly simple.

During the physical exam, the health professional will:

  • Press the baby's tongue down to the floor of the mouth with a tongue depressor and use a bright light to examine all parts of his or her mouth.
  • Place a gloved finger into the baby's mouth to feel for any openings or defects in the roof of his or her mouth (palate).

A cleft lip is immediately obvious at birth. A health professional will determine the type and extent of the cleft lip and perform a careful examination for cleft palate, since they often occur together.

If cleft palate is diagnosed—with or without cleft lip—your baby may be screened or checked for other birth defects or conditions that are sometimes associated with cleft palate, such as those related to fetal alcohol syndrome or to the chromosomal conditions trisomy 13 and 18.

Last Updated: January 21, 2010

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology

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