Both cleft lip and palate are orofacial birth defects in which a baby is born with an opening in the roof of the mouth and/or the lip.
A cleft lip can occur between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy and is caused when the normal joining of the lip and facial tissue does not completely close. The result can be a small unclosed slit or a large opening traveling from the lip to the nose – and is most common in boys.
A cleft palate occurs when the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth does not completely join, leaving an opening in the front and/or back mouth palate. This defect usually occurs between the sixth and ninth weeks of pregnancy and is more common in girls. Both cleft lip and cleft palate can be successfully treated by skilled pediatric dental professionals or plastic surgeons. Follow-up treatment to improve the child’s speaking and eating abilities and to treat any other ear, nose and throat conditions are common.
The direct cause of these birth defects are still unknown – even though each year over 2500 babies are born with a cleft palate and over 4,400 with a cleft lip (with or without cleft palate). Both of these oral and/or facial defects could be caused by various reasons, including a mother who smokes during pregnancy, women who take certain medications, or those diagnosed with diabetes prior to pregnancy.
Cleft lip and palate repair will vary depending on the child’s specific needs, but are geared towards closing and rebuilding the mouth separation along with additional surgeries to improve appearance. Like many birth defects, the risk factors and methods to prevent and treat these childhood issues are continually researched to shed light on increasing the national rates for healthy pregnancy.
If you have any questions regarding cleft lip and palate, contact our office today!