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Cleft Lip and Palate – All the Things You Should Know About

June 23, 2021

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that happen when a child’s lip or mouth does not develop correctly when it is developing in the womb.

Collectively they are known as orofacial defects. A baby may be born with either a cleft palate or a cleft lip or both. 

What is Cleft Lip?

Between the 4th and 7th weeks of gestation, the baby’s lips take shape as the tissues from either side of the head develop towards the center to form the face. 

It involves the joining of cells to make features like the nose, lips, and mouth.

If the tissues that make the lips do not join properly, a cleft lip results. It is an opening in the upper lip in the form of a slit.

What is Cleft Palate?

The palate is the roof of the mouth. It is formed between the 6th & 9th weeks of pregnancy.

In the formation process, if the tissues do not join completely at the roof, a cleft palate happens.

After birth, part of the child’s palate is open or maybe both the front and back are open.

Causes of Cleft Lip and Palate

The exact cause of orofacial defects in infants is not known and it is not possible to prevent them.

Although there are certain risk factors and links to genes that indicate such abnormalities.

Scientists believe that both genes and environmental factors cause orofacial clefts.

If a parent or a sibling has a birth defect like that, the child is more likely to have it compared to other babies. 

Among environmental factors, certain lifestyle habits or consumption of medicines by the mother contribute to this birth defect in the child.

It includes:

Smoking

Most of the orofacial defects in babies were associated with mothers who continued to smoke during pregnancy. 

Diabetes

Women with a pre-existent diabetic condition run a higher risk of delivering a child with a defective palate, as compared to mothers who are not.

Consumption of Certain Drugs

Drugs administered for diseases such as epilepsy increase the risk of the baby having a deformed lip( with or without cleft palate).

It is advised for all pregnant ladies to discuss with their doctors medicines and lifestyle habits when they are planning a child. Managing a baby with a cleft lip & cleft palate.

When the lip and palate are incorrectly or not joined, the baby and the mother can face the following issues:

Feeding the Baby

when there is an opening in the palate, food can pass through it and enter the baby’s nose. However, mostly the baby will learn to swallow it. 

Hearing and Ears

Cleft babies run a greater risk of ear infections & fluid build-up in the ears. If left untreated, it may cause infections and hearing loss. 

Speaking

Cleft palate kids may have issues with speech too. Voice may be low or unclear, although not so in all cases. 

Teeth

Such kids are more prone to cavities, malformed, missing or unaligned teeth compared to other children of their age.

Also Read: Are You Unknowingly Grinding Your Teeth?

How Are Cleft lip and Palate Treated?

Cleft lip and palate can be successfully treated with the help of treatments by a team of specialist doctors that include a plastic surgeon, a dentist, prosthodontists, a speech pathologist, and an otolaryngologist.

Many invasive and non-invasive techniques can completely repair the condition. 

A plastic surgeon assesses and performs the essential surgery for the cleft lip and/or palate. Orthodontic services are needed to align the teeth.

A dental surgeon’s routine checkups are required for proper care of the oral cavity.

Prosthodontist services are usually needed as well for making dental appliances or artificial teeth, improving the looks,  eating, and speaking process.  

The speech doctor will evaluate the speech issues and suggest treatment accordingly.

The Otolaryngologist (ENT) is an ear, nose, and throat doctor who will assess hearing problems & weigh the treatment options accordingly.

Surgery

Surgery for correcting cleft lip & palate is based on the child’s particular situation.

After the initial cleft repair, doctors might recommend follow-up surgeries to improve speech or better the appearance of the lip & nose.

Conventionally the deformed lip repair is performed at the age of 3 months to 6 months and the palate surgery after 1 year. 

Various surgical techniques are deployed to reconstruct the affected tissues as well as prevent further problems.

These surgeries mainly include:

Cleft Lip Repair

The treatment is aimed at building a normal lip appearance, pattern, and function.

Several methods may be used to close the opening and rebuild the roof of the mouth depending on your particular case.  

Ear Tube Surgery

In the case of cleft palate, doctors usually place ear tubes to eliminate the risk of fluid buildup in the middle ear which causes hearing loss.

Do you wish to get this treatment?

At Kirkland Premier Dentistry Dr. Gaurav Sharma has 400+ hours of Continuing education from the prestigious AAID (American Academy of Implant Dentistry) He applies for the latest research & advances in dentistry to provide the best dental care to patients.

For any kind of dental emergency, feel free to contact us online or call the office.

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