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Glossary of Terms Used in the Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado

Contact Info

Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic
(720) 777-2574
(720) 777-7269


  • Auditory brain response (ABR): a type of hearing test often performed after an infant fails the initial newborn hearing exam or when unable to complete a good hearing test; it is sometimes done under anesthesia
  • Alar cartilage: cartilage that forms the outer side of each nostril
  • Alveolus: the upper gum line; the part of the bony upper jaw that contains teeth
  • Articulation: the formation of speech sounds
  • Audiologic evaluation: a hearing test
  • Bilateral cleft: a cleft (split or opening) that occurs on both sides
  • Bone morphogenic protein (BMP): a growth hormone that stimulates bone growth; it is used to fill in the gap in the gum line where the gum (alveolus) is clefted at the time of the bone graft surgery
  • Cleft: a split or opening
  • Columella: tissue at the base of the nose that separates the nostrils
  • Congenital: existing at the time of birth
  • Cross bite: when the upper teeth sit behind the lower teeth, instead of in front of them
  • Deciduous teeth (baby teeth): a child’s first set of teeth; these teeth fall out as a part of normal development
  • Denasality: vocal quality that lacks a normal nasal sound (sounds like a stuffy nose); also known as hypo-nasality
  • Dental arch: the horseshoe shape of the upper gum
  • Effusion: collection of fluid in the middle ear space; common among children with cleft palate and can negatively affect hearing
  • Eustachian tube: the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat
  • Fistula: an abnormal opening that can occur after surgical repair of the palate
  • Genetics: the science of genes and heredity
  • Hyper-nasality: greater than normal nasal quality during speech
  • Hypo-nasality: vocal quality that lacks normal nasal quality during speech (stuffy nose), (also known as denasality)
  • Malocclusion: incorrect positioning of upper teeth in relation to lower teeth
  • Mandible: the lower jaw, including the chin
  • Maxilla: the bony upper jaw, including the area above the upper lip and under the nose
  • Microform cleft: a very slight cleft (split or opening) in the lip or muscle of the lip
  • Mixed dentition: period of time when children have both baby teeth and permanent teeth
  • Nasal alveolar molding (NAM): a process sometimes used to bring the clefted segments in the upper gum and lip closer together before surgical repair
  • Nasal ala: wings or sides of the nostrils
  • Nasal emission: amount of air that flows through the nose during speech
  • Nasal regurgitation: food or liquids leaking out through the nose
  • Nasal septum: internal structure that divides the nasal cavity
  • Nasal endoscopy: a procedure in which a small camera is inserted through the nose to look at palate and throat movement during speech
  • Nostril retainer: plastic device used after surgical repair of the lip and nose to help hold the shape of the nostrils as the tissue heals or to help keep the nostrils open
  • Obturator: retainer-like device placed in the roof of the mouth to cover the cleft (split or opening); helps with feeding and speech development
  • Occlusion: relationship between the upper and lower teeth when they are in contact
  • Otitis media: ear infection
  • Palate: roof of the mouth (made up of a hard section and a soft tissue section)
  • Pharyngeal: relating to the pharynx or back of the throat
  • Philtrum: middle of the upper lip
  • Premaxilla: front central section of the upper gum usually containing the four upper front teeth
  • Prolabium: front portion of the upper lip
  • Resonance: quality of voice sound
  • Submucous cleft: a cleft (split or opening) affecting the muscles that attach in the middle of the soft palate, but the visible skin is still intact
  • Unilateral cleft: a split or opening (cleft) in one side of the lip or palate; can be completely open or partially slit
  • Uvula: small cone-shaped tissue that hangs down from the soft palate in the back of the mouth; looks like a little punching bag
  • Velopharyngeal closure: closure of the back end of the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and the back wall of the throat (pharynx)
  • Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI): occurs during speech without a good seal between the nose and the mouth; resulting in hypernasal speech as air escapes from the back of the throat
  • Vermillion: the vertical groove in the center portion of the upper lip
  • Vermillion border: where the red portion of the lip meets the lighter skin portion of the lip