Cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital deformities that have to do with the formation of the skull and face. Cleft lip and cleft palate are characterized by a split or opening in the mouth, the roof of the mouth, or both. They develop before a baby is born, typically around the fourth to seventh week of pregnancy.
Finding out that your child has a cleft lip or cleft palate can be frightening. If you’ve never heard of a cleft palate or cleft lip, you may be wondering why your child looks different from others. However, both abnormalities are actually quite common. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate, and 4,400 are born with a cleft lip annually.
Surgical procedures can treat both cleft lip and cleft palate. Learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for cleft lip and cleft palate.
What is Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?
Cleft lip and cleft palate occur during the formation of the skull and face. Each side of a baby’s face forms separately and then fuses together later on during pregnancy. If the two sides do not fuse properly, it results in a gap or cleft.
In a cleft lip, the gap occurs in the upper lip. Cleft lips can look different for each individual. How severe the cleft is, and its location is unique for each child. They can range from a small notch in the lip to a complete split up to the nose. They can also be on either side of the face, right down the middle, or on either side of the lip’s cupid’s bow.
A cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth. The gap can form towards the throat (soft palate) or towards the lips (hard palate). Large clefts in the palate can sometimes make it difficult to breathe, making cleft palate surgery a necessity. It’s also possible to have both cleft lip and cleft palate. Both can be treated with surgery if needed.
Causes of Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate
There is no definite cause for a cleft lip or cleft palate. The formation of clefts typically occur during the fourth and seventh week of pregnancy, and can often be detected by ultrasound. Facial abnormalities can occur due to genetics or environmental factors, but research tells us there’s nothing you can really do to prevent a cleft lip or palate.
Because each cleft lip and palate are different for each person, its symptoms are also unique. However, if not treated, cleft lip and cleft palate can lead to:
- Dental issues
- Hearing problems
- Feeding difficulties
- Breathing complications
- Speech problems
Fortunately, there is a range of procedures oral and maxillofacial surgeons can perform to treat and manage a cleft lip or palate. Cleft palate and cleft lip are typically treated with surgery and result in minimal scarring. Operations usually take place within the child’s first year Further surgeries may be required in the future, but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent further complications.
If your child has cleft lip or a cleft palate, seek the help of a trusted oral and maxillofacial surgeon. This surgeon can provide information on the condition, come up with a treatment plan, and perform the necessary surgery. Dr. Nancy Herbst of Union City Oral Surgery has over 25 years of experience in the dental industry and can help fix your child’s cleft today. Contact us at (201) 601-9262 to schedule an appointment.