Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate
Cleft lip and cleft palate occurs very early in pregnancy. These conditions are facial and oral malformations that can occur when a baby is still in the mother’s womb. Both occur when there is not enough tissue in the lip and mouth area which cause the splitting.
Cleft lip occurs in the upper lip area where the skin is separated. The separation can extend up to the upper jaw or gum. Cleft palate on the other hand occurs on the upper roof of the mouth and can involve both the hard or bony part and soft back portion.
The cause for these conditions is still unknown. Among the many possibilities include:
- medication taken by the mother during pregnancy,
- exposure to chemicals or viruses,
- another medical condition, and
Cleft lip and cleft palate may be diagnosed through ultrasound or physical exam after a child is born. Problems that may be encountered when one has cleft lip and cleft palate are hearing loss or ear infection, eating problems, speech problems and dental problems.
In treating these conditions, a team of doctors is usually involved. From your plastic surgeon to a geneticist and your dentist.
The number of surgery procedures involved in treating cleft lip is usually two. The first surgery may be performed as early as three months old. In treating cleft palate, the first surgery may be done as early as six months old. Repairing cleft palate takes a longer time than cleft lip. A series of surgeries may be required for a span of as long as 18 years. Facial bones and teeth can develop properly with early surgeries. A bone graft may be necessary when the child reaches eight years old to aid the development of upper gum line and/or upper jaw and support permanent teeth. Braces may be needed to correct the alignment of teeth when the patient is already of age. Sometimes a follow up surgery or two will be completed to close openings between the nose and mouth, realign the jaw or aid breathing. Final repairs may need to be done when the patient has reached an age when facial structures are fully developed.
Dental care is very important for children with this condition so maintaining good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are required. Close monitoring both by the parents and health professionals are necessary as well to get the best results possible.