A cleft lift is a malformation that occurs during pregnancy, resulting in a visible separation of the two sides of the upper lip. If the separation occurs on the roof of the mouth or palate, the condition is known as cleft palate. The lip and palate typically develop independently of each other, meaning a cleft lip and a cleft palate may occur independently, but could occur together at the same time. Cleft lip or palate ranks high among the most common congenital anomalies in babies, with an estimated 1 in 700 children having the condition.


Cleft lips can be broadly categorized into unilateral and bilateral depending on the side of the lip on which it occurs. Unilateral cleft lips occur on one side of the lip while bilateral cleft lips occur on two sides. There are other classifications of cleft lips, as listed below: 

  • Incomplete unilateral cleft lip: affects one side of the lip without extending to the nose
  • Complete unilateral cleft lip: affects one side of the lip but also extends to the nose
  • Incomplete bilateral cleft lip: affects one side of the lip but like it’s unilateral counterpart, does not extend to the nose
  • Complete bilateral cleft lip: affects both sides of the lips but also like its unilateral counterpart, extends to the nose


Cleft lips occur when the tissue that form the lips do not fuse properly. The tissue that makes-up the baby’s lips come together around the middle of the first trimester of pregnancy. When there is not enough tissue in the oral cavity of the fetus, a complete fusion doesn’t occur properly and there is a gaping hole in the lips. The specific cause of this insufficiency is yet unknown. Scientists think it involves a complex interaction between environmental and genetic factors. Research has also shown that sometimes there might be sufficient tissue, but the lips still do not join properly.


Surgery is usually required for the correction of cleft lips. The exact surgical procedure would vary depending on the specific condition. A child may need more than one surgery to fully repair the cleft lip. The first surgery is usually performed when the child is about 3 to 6 months old. All surgeries carry some form of risk but a cleft lip surgery is considered very safe. There’s usually a small scar around the cleft area after the surgery.

Surgical treatment of cleft palates is more complicated. The child would require multiple surgeries that could extend over an 18-year period. Sometimes children would need a bone graft or some other surgery in order to enhance their speech.


Microform cleft lip is a less noticeable cleft lip condition and it has less potential to lead to health complications. This condition doesn’t leave a visible gap although the tissue surrounding the lip area is affected. A microform cleft lip could also be unilateral or bilateral and could sometimes extend to the tissues that lie under the nose. In such instances, there could be a deformation of the nose and the height of the lips is also affected.


A microform cleft lip may not require surgical treatment. Since it usually presents a small scar over the lips, the treatment team has to determine if there would be any significant difference in the size of the scar from the cleft and the scar from the surgery.


Lips micropigmentation can conveniently hide the scar and help correct microform cleft lips. The procedure is safe as it doesn’t require surgery. Lip micropigmentation is the application of paramedical micropigmentation with the use of specialized pigments and devices, to hide the scar on the lips. This procedure is performed by a semi-permanent makeup artist. The semi-permanent makeup artist will make a blend of specialized pigments that will match the skin tone of the patient.


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