Cleft Lip and Palate is a Birth Defect but it Can be Treated

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Cleft Lip and Palate is a Birth Defect but it Can be Treated

Cleft lip and palate are oral and facial malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing the gestational period. Clef of lip and/or palate results when there is deficiency of tissue in lip or palate area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.

A cleft lip is a physical separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose. It also includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate and/or the soft palate.

Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur on one (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral) of the mouth. Because the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible to have a cleft palate without a cleft lip, a cleft lip without a cleft palate, or both together.

What Causes a Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?

  • genetics
  • smoking during pregnancy
  • diabetes during pregnancy
  • using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
  • taking some medicines while pregnant
  • poor prenatal health care

What Problems Are Associated With Cleft Lip and/or Palate?

  • Eating problems. 
  • Ear infections / hearing loss. 
  • Dental problems.
  • Speech problems: A child with a cleft lip may not have many speech problems. A child with a cleft palate will need help learning to make sounds and speak clearly.

The soft palate needs to move to touch the back of the throat and it closes the space between our mouth and nose. There is a need to do this so that most sounds can come out of mouth. Some sounds, like “m”, “n” and “ng” come out of our nose. The soft palate needs to stay open for these sounds. Some children have cleft extending till their soft palate which may hinder the function.

A child with velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) cannot touch the soft palate to the back of the throat (pharynx). The soft palate may be too short or does not move the right way. This lets air and sound escape through his nose while talking (nasal voice or nasal speech). There may be a need for surgery to fix VPI. Also, the child may need a device in his mouth to help close the soft palate. VPI can also happen in children who do not have a cleft.

Treatment for Cleft Lip and Palate

Child will need services from a number of professionals.

  • plastic surgeon
  • dentist
  • orthodontist
  • ear, nose, and throat doctor
  • dietitian
  • SLP
  • audiologist

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