Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate happens when the right and left sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth do not, as they normally do, grow together. Occasionally, in about one of every 800 babies, the sections of the lips don’t quite meet and a child is born with a separation in the upper lip which is said to have a cleft lip. A similar birth defect also in the roof of the mouth, or palate, is called a cleft palate. Since the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or some variations of both.  Because of this, there are generally three different kinds of clefts: the cleft lip without a cleft palate, the cleft palate without a cleft lip and the cleft lip and cleft palate together.

A cleft lip and palate may occur in association with other birth defects. There are numerous causes for birth defects is including mutant genes inherited from one or both parents, as well as teratogens or drugs, viruses, or other toxins that can cause abnormalities in a developing fetus. Doctors don’t know exactly why a baby develops cleft lip or cleft palate, though it is believed to be a combination of inherited and environmental factors. Environmental factors include certain drugs, illnesses, and the use of alcohol or tobacco while a woman is pregnant. However, the risk may be higher for kids whose sibling or parents have a cleft or who have a history of clefting in their families because both mothers and fathers can pass on a gene or genes that cause cleft palate or cleft lip.

Symptoms related to oral clefting which are good indicators for your child include separation of the lip alone, separation of the palate, separation of the lip and palate, varying amounts of nasal distortion, recurrent ear infections, or some failure to gain weight. Some other symptoms include nasal regurgitations during bottle-feeding, growth retardation, misaligned teeth, poor speech and feeding problems.

Although the treatment for this may extend over several years and require several surgeries depending upon the involvement, this should be passionately pursued. As experienced by many, most children affected by this disorder can achieve normal appearance, speech, and eating after correction although for some, speech problems may continue.
Complications of oral clefting are hazardous as it includes recurrent ear infections, hearing loss, dental cavities, displaced teeth, poor speech, lip deformities and nasal deformities. More than just disfiguring, these abnormalities can also cause feeding difficulties, problems with speech development, and more. The incidence of cleft lip and palate varies with different races but approximately 1 out of 1,000 Caucasians are affected. However, the incidence of cleft palate alone is 1 out of 2,500 people.

Lip and Palate Reconstructive Surgery

Cleft lip and cleft palate, however, are treatable birth defects and most kids born with these conditions can have reconstructive surgery within the first 12 to 18 months of life to correct the defect. With this, there can be a significantly improved facial appearance through the medical advancements in the treatment of oral clefting. However, a child with oral clefting will need to see a variety of specialists who will work together as a team to treat the condition. This treatment begins in the first few months of an infant’s life, depending on the health of the infant. Members of a child’s cleft lip and palate treatment team would usually include: a geneticist, a plastic surgeon, an ear, nose, and throat physician (otolaryngologist), an oral surgeon, an orthodontist, a dentist and a speech pathologist or often called a speech therapist. An audiologist, a nurse coordinator and a social worker or a psychologist is also helpful. As a team, your specialists will evaluate your child’s progress regularly, examining your child’s hearing, speech, nutrition, teeth, and emotional state and then share their recommendations with you.

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