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What to Know About Cleft Palate and Lip

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Cleft lip and palate happen while the baby is still in the uterus. It usually develops between the first six and 10 weeks of pregnancy. The bones and tissues the upper jaw, mouth and nose usually start developing at this point. But, what happens if this doesn’t happen properly, a cleft lip or a cleft palate or both are formed.

What are the difference between the two?
The palate is located at the roof of the mouth. It extends from behind the teeth all the way back to near the throat. If a baby is born with a cleft palate, this means that he or she has a hole in the palate between the mouth and the nose. It could either be a partial cleft which means the hole only goes through part of the palate or it could reach through the entire palate.

A cleft lip usually accompanies a cleft palate. This is when there is a hole or a gap in the top lip extending up into the nose. These can be referred to as either unilateral or bilateral. A unilateral cleft lip means that the hole is only under one nostril. A bilateral means that the gap is covering both side of the lip.

A cleft palate and a cleft lip don’t always have to accompany one another although they often do.
BR>What makes this happen?
There is no definite answer to this question but medical professionals believe that it could be a combination of the following:

  1. It can be genetic. If a child is born with a cleft lip or palate, then their mother or father, or both could have passed down a gene that causes it.

  2. It could also be outside influences or environmental factors. If the mother had to take medicines such as seizure medication while she was pregnant, this could cause a cleft lip or palate. Certain chemicals that come into contact with a pregnant woman can also increase the risk factor.

    If the mother does not get the correct nutrition while she is pregnant, this puts the baby at risk for a cleft also. Vitamins like folic acid are particularly important when pregnant precisely because of possible defects like this.

    How does this birth defect affect the baby?
    As babies before the cleft palate repair is done, they might have difficulty nursing or breast feeding because the palate is what stops liquid and food from going into the nose. There are bottles with special nipples designed for this if the child has to wait in order to the cleft palate repaired.

    While most kids have the cleft palate repaired when they are babies, they still might face a few difficulties as they get older. Having dental issues can be common such as frequent cavities or misshapen teeth. Hearing loss due to frequent ear infections and fluid build up can also happen. Some kids might have hypernasal speech and find it hard to pronounce some words.

    How is a cleft palate repaired?
    Normally the baby will have surgery when they are between nine and 12 months of age. The surgery will close the hole in the roof or lip. It may be necessary to have several surgeries done in order to completely repair the cleft. Bone grafts might even be included in the various surgeries. Depending on how their speech progresses, the may later need to operate on the throat.

    There are a lot of specialists that are involved in repairing and treating cleft lip and palates including but not limited to a geneticist, plastic surgeons, an ear, nose and throat doctor, an oral surgeon, an orthodontist and dentist, a hearing specialist, a language specialist, a social worker and sometimes a therapist or psychologist.

    Most of the surgeries can be done when the people are small babies and they won’t even remember having them. However, sometimes there are surgeries that need to be continued up into their teens and even adult years. These surgeries are usually done by the plastic surgeon in order to improve the look of the face as well as help the person to be able to breathe more easily.

    In every cleft palate or lip case, the child is capable of leading a perfectly normal life.

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