A Brief Introduction
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate occur when the development of facial structures stops midway at the time the baby is in the womb.
A Cleft Lip is a physical orifice on the two sides of the upper lip that sometimes goes beyond the base of the nose, including the bones of the upper jaw/gum.
A Cleft Palate is an opening at the mouth’s roof. A cleft palate can involve either the front or the back portion of the mouth ceiling.
As such, Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate are a type of birth defect. There is no concrete explanation of what exactly causes clefts. But specific parameters increase the risk of a baby having a cleft at birth. These include:
- A family history of Cleft Lip or Palate.
- Consuming tobacco, taking drugs or drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
- Getting insufficient nutrients during pregnancy, such as folic acid.
- Diabetes before pregnancy.
- Obesity during pregnancy.
- Certain contagion during pregnancy, such as rubella (German measles).
In general, a split (cleft) in the lip or palate is immediately identifiable at birth. You may notice a Cleft Lip and/or a Cleft Palate may appear as:
- A gap in the lip and the roof of the mouth (palate) that affects either or both sides of the face.
- A split in the lip, which only appears as a small groove in the lip or advances from the lip through the upper gum and palate into the nose base.
- A split in the mouth ceiling that does not affect the appearance of the face.
Children having clefts often suffer from:
- Eating Problems
- Ear Infection/Hearing Impairment
- Speech problems
- Dental Problems
A cleft lip or palate can easily be treated with an Oral Surgery. This is more often done in the first few months after birth for Cleft Lip and before 18 months for Cleft Palate.
Surgery is performed for closing the cleft lip within the first 2–3 months after birth. Though the surgery to repair a cleft lip can be conducted soon after birth, the preferred age is at approximately 10 weeks, following ‘the rules of 10s’ (the child weighs a minimum 10 pounds and has at least 10g hemoglobin and is at least 10 weeks old. It might require frequent surgeries if the cleft is bilateral.
A cleft palate is often covered by a device that is made to fit the ceiling of the mouth covering the gap for a short span of time.
The Cleft palate is usually operated between 6 and 12 months of birth. One of the recent innovations of cleft lip and cleft palate repair is the ‘Latham Appliance’ in which the Latham is inserted using pins, normally when the child ages between 4-5 months. After it is in place, a screw is turned daily to bring the cleft together to help with a future lip or palate repair. A Dentist generally does this, but even parents can do it,
The probability for a parent to prevent Cleft Lip and Palate is limited. But it’s always prevention better than cure. Pregnant women need to be aware of actions that might increase the risk to their baby. Cigarettes, drugs & alcohol are responsible for various congenital disabilities including cleft lip and palate.
Dr. Jerry Kronquist, the well-educated dentist in Santa Ana, recommends that a healthy diet, daily multivitamin medication, maintaining a healthy weight before becoming pregnant and keeping diabetes under control also eradicate the risks of cleft lip and palate to a great extent. Besides, the to-be-parents should consult a doctor before going for any medications or vaccinations.
Important Article: Importance Of Dental Exams
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate occur in about 1 in a 1000 births. Cleft Lip is generally found in double the males as in females, while Cleft Palate without Cleft Lip is more prominent in women.2013 recorded about 3,300 deaths around the globe, which are comparatively less than 7,600 deaths, recorded in 1990. This condition was earlier known as a “hare-lip” because it resembles a hare or a rabbit, but that term is now taken to be obnoxious.