Cleft Terms

This glossary is here for you to use if there is a term you see or your doctor uses that you don't recognize.

All material on this page taken From The Cleft Palate Story by Samuel Berkowitz, DDS, MS, FICD - Used with permission


Allergic rhinitis - Swelling of the membrane in the nasal chamber due to allergic reactions; the condition may obstruct breathing

Alveolar ridge -  The bony arches of the maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw) that contain the teeth Alveolus The bony area that supports the teeth

Anomaly - Irregularity

Anterior -front

Appliance, dental - A device worn In the mouth to pro vide a dental benefit

Articulation - The process of forming and expressing speech sounds

Articulation disorder - The omission or ineffective expression of speech sounds

Articulation test - A test that evaluates how an individual’s speech sounds are formed

Atelectasis  - Collapse of eardrum, which separates the outer ear from the middle ear chamber

Atresia - The lack of closure of a normal body orifice or passage

Andiogram - A standard graph that records the results of hearing sensitivity testing

Audlologic evaluation - A variety of procedures used to measure hearing sensitivity

Audiologist -  A person holding a degree and certification In audiology (the science of hearing), who identifies, measures, and rehabilitates people with hearing Impairments

Audiology - The study of hearing and hearing disorders

Audiometer - An electronic instrument designed to measure hearing sensitivity


Bifid uvula - Uvula muscle divided into two parts

Bilateral - Having two sides, or pertaining to both sides

Bone graft - A transplant or movement of bone from one site to another

Braces - Orthodontic appliance attached to the teeth used to move them into a better position

Bridge - Fixed or removable appliance used to replace missing teeth and to help maintain the corrected dental arch form

Buccal - Pertaining to the cheek

Buccal segments of maxilla - The side portions of the upper jaw that are adjacent to the cheeks


Cephalometric tracing - Anatomic drawings made from x-ray films of the head

Cephalometric analysis - Head measurements made from the anatomic drawings of the head

Cineradiography - Motion picture recording of the lip, tongue, soft palate. and lower jaw activity; it is often used to evaluate the anatomic movements involved in speech

Cleft - Split or divided; refers to muscle, skin, or bone

Cleft lip - Congenital deformity of the upper lip that varies from a notching to a complete division of the lip; any degree of clefting can exist

Cleft palate - Spilt in the middle of the palate that may extend through the uvula, soft palate, and into the hard palate; the lip may or may not be involved in the cleft

Cleft palate craniofacial team - Group of professionals involved in the care and treatment of patients having cleft palate and other craniofacial malformations; consists of representatives from some of the following specialties: pediatrics, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, audiology, speech pathology, pedodontics, psychiatry, orthodontics, prosthodontics, psychology, social service, nursing, radiology, genetics, and oral surgery

Columella - The central lower portion of the nose that divides the nostrils

Communication disorder - Any Interference with one’s ability to comprehend or express ideas, experiences, knowledge, and feelings

Comprehension - Knowledge or understanding of spoken and written information

Congenital - A disease, deformity, or deficiency exIsting at birth

Craniofacial - Involving the cranium, or part of the skull that encloses the brain, and the face

Crossblte occlusion - Condition in which the upper teeth are positioned behind the lower teeth, Instead of in the normal position


Deciduous teeth - The first teeth, known as baby or primary teeth, which are eventually replaced by permanent teeth

Denasality - A lack of nasal quality of the voice; there is a lack of nasal resonance for the sounds m, n, and ng due to insufficient nasal air flow

Dental arch - The curved structure of the upper and lower jaws formed by the teeth In their normal position on the alveolar ridges

Dental crown - Cover for a tooth that Is made by a dentist


Ear -The organ of hearing, which is divided into three parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear

Ear canal - The external canal leading from the outer ear to the eardrum (tympanic membrane)

Eardrum - Tympanic membrane; it vibrates and trans xmts sound from the canal to the middle ear

Effusion - Accumulation of fluid In the middle ear

E.N.T. - Common medical abbreviation for ‘ear, nose, and throat”

Erupt, eruption - The emergence of a tooth through the gums and its supporting bone

Eustachian tube - The air duct that connects the nasopharynx (located In the back of the throat and above the hard Ebony] palate) with the middle ear; it is usually closed at one end, but opens with yawning and swallow ing; It allows ventilation of the middle ear cavity and equalization of pressure on both sides of the eardrum

Evaluation - Assessment

Expander - Appliance used to widen the upper dental arch

Extraction - Removal (In this case, of teeth)


Fistula - Abnormal opening from the mouth to the nasal cavity remaining after surgical closure of the original cleft


Genetics - The science of heredity

Gingiva - Gums


Hard palate - The bony portion of the roof of the mouth

“Hare lip” - Outdated term for cleft lip

Hearing impairment - A loss in hearing, ranging from mild to complete

Heredity - Characteristics and traits genetically derived from one’s ancestors

Hypernasality - Excessive nasal resonance during speech due to an excess of air flow into the nasal chamber

Hyponasality - Lack of nasal resonance during speech due to a marked decrease in air flow


Impedance audiometry - Physiologic hearing test used to measure air pressure in the middle ear cavity and the ability of the eardrum to function normally

Incidence - Frequency of occurrence

Incisor - A tooth that is located in the front of the mouth between the cuspids

Inferior - Lower

Inner ear - The Internal portion of the ear that contains the sensory end organs used for hearing and balance

Intermaxillary fixation - The use of elastics and/or wires to stabilize the upper to lower arches after surgery to one or both jaws


Language disorder or impairment - Difficulty with language comprehension or expression; an interference with the abifity to communicate effectively

Larynx - The upper part of the windpipe that contains the vocal chords

Lateral - Relating to the side

Logan’s bow - An appliance used to keep the lips together before lip surgery to reduce tension at the suture site


Malocclusion - A deviation from normal occlusion (the way the teeth should meet), or an incorrect alignment or position of the upper with the lower teeth; any number of teeth may be involved

Mandible - U-shaped bone forming the lower jaw

Mandibular - Relating to the mandible or lower jaw

Maxilla - The bone forming the upper jaw

Maxillary - Relating to the maxilla or upper jaw

Maxillary orthopedics - The movement of palatal segments by the use of appliances

Medial - In, near, or positioned toward the middle

Micrognathia - A condition characterized by abnormal smallness of the jaw

Middle ear - Portion of the ear containing the three small bones of the ossicular chain that transfers sound from the eardrum to the inner ear; it Is attached to the tympanic membrane on one end and the oval window at the other end

Mucoperiosteunt - Connective tissue (perlosteum) that has a mucous surface that contacts bone on one side

Mucosa - The outer layer of the soft tissue lining that covers the bone (in this case, In the mouth)

Multifactorial - Having many factors or causes

Myringotomy - A minor surgical procedure In which a small slit is made in the eardrum, allowing fluid to drain from the middle ear; It may or may not involve placement of ventilating tubes


Nasal - Pertaining to the nose or nasal cavity

Nasal alae - The wings of the nostrils

Nasal cavity - Passageway from the nostrils to the backof the throat

Nasal chamber - The enclosed space within the nose Nasal emission or nasal escape The flow of air through the nose, usually Indicative of an incomplete seal between the cavities of the mouth and the nose

Nasopharyngoscope - A lighted telescopic instrument used for examining the nasal passages In the back of the throat; it Is also useful in assessing velopharyngeal closure

Nasopharynx - The area in the back of the throat, at and above the soft palate


Obturator - A plastic (acrylic) appliance, usually removable, used to close a cleft in the hard palate: It is some times used to aid in feeding

Occlude - To block

Occlusion - Relationship between the upper and lower teeth when they are in contact; it refers to the alignment of teeth as well as the relationship of the dental arches

Oral cavity - The mouth, whose boundaries are the lips and teeth In the front and the soft palate in the rear

Orofacial - Relating to the mouth and face

Oropharynx - The area of the pharynx below the soft palate and above the esophagus and continuous with the mouth

Orthodontics - The specialty of dentistry concerned with the correction and prevention of irregularities and malocclusion of the teeth and jaws

Orthognathic - Dealing with the cause and treatment of malposition of the jaw bones

Orthopedics - The movement of bone by means of appliances rather than surgery

Ossicles - Three bones in the middle ear that transfer energy from sound waves in the tympanic membrane Into the inner ear, where hearing sensors are located

Otitis media - Inflammation of the middle ear, where thick mucous fluid accumulates: this is a special problem for Infants with cleft palates

Otolaryngologist - Physician specializing In the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the ear and larynx; commonly referred to as an ear, nose, and throat (E.N.T.) specialist

Otoscope - An instrument used for visual examination of the external ear and eardrum

Overbite - The distance of the upper to lower teeth in the vertical dimension

Overjet - The distance between the upper and lower teeth in the horizontal dimension


Palatal insufficiency - Velophaiyngeal insufficiency; the inability to control air flow through the nose and mouth (too much air enters the nose)

Palatal lift appliance - A removable plastic appliance with an extension reaching backward that lifts the soft palate

Palate - The roof of the mouth, including the front portion or hard palate, and the rear portion or soft palate (velum)

Pediatrician - Physician specializing in pediatrics, the area of medicine dealing with the health and diseases of children and adolescents

Pediatric dentist - A dentist specializing in dental care for children and adolescents

Pedodontics - Pediatric dentistry: the specialty of den tistry concerned with the care of children’s and adoles cent’s teeth

Periosteum  - Connective tissue layer that covers bones

Pharyngeal - Relating to the pharynx, the back of the throat

Pharyngeal flap - A surgical procedure that aids in velopharyngeal closure; a flap of skin (mucosa) taken from the back of the throat and attached to the soft palate Is used to close most of the openings between the oropharynx and nasopharynx during swallowing and speech

Pharynx - Back of the throat

Posterior - Back

Premaxila - The front part of the upper jaw containing the front teeth (the incisors): In children with clefts to the alveolus the number of incisor teeth is highly variable

Prolabium - The central part of the lip attached to the premaxllla

Prosthesis - A device used to replace a missing body part, in this case teeth to maintain the upper jaw arch form and/or to aid speech function


Retrognathic - Lower or upper jaw behind its normal position as related to the opposing jaw and other cranio facial structures

Rigid fixation - The use of metal plates and/or screws to stabilize bone manipulated by surgery


Septum, nasal - Dividing wall or partition between the two nasal cavities

Simonart’s band - Bands of soft tissue (skin and muscle) that bridge a cleft of the lip

Sphincter pharyngoplasty - A surgical procedure used to channel the flow of air through the mouth by reducing the nasopharyngeal opening

Superior - Upper


Teratogen - Something causing physical defects In the developing embryo

Tympanic membrane - Eardrum


Unilateral - One-sided

Uvula - Muscle extension on the soft palate that can be seen as fleshy lobe in the midline of the throat; it is thought to aid In air-flow control


Velopharyngeal - Pertaining to the soft palate and pharynx

Velopharyngeal incompetence - Inadequate velopharyngeal closure resulting In hypernasality (excessive flow of air through the nose); also called Velopharyngeal insuffIciency

Velum - The soft palate

Vomer (adj., vomerine) - The bony part of the nasal partition that separates the nose into right and left halves; it is attached to the hard palate