What are Cleft lip and cleft palate?
A Cleft palate is a frequent congenital disability that occurs when the developing facial features of an unborn baby do not close completely. Cleft lip and palate refer to openings or splits in a child’s roof of the mouth, lip, or both. They are most typically found as single birth abnormalities, but they are also linked to various inherited genetic disorders and syndromes.
It is something you have probably seen in hospitals, with your neighbors, or on the news. It may be terrifying to have a baby born with a cleft lip or palate, but do not fear if that happens; cleft lip and palate may be fixed with surgery by specialists.
Cleft lip and palate are most common in Native Americans and least common in African-Americans in the United States. This article will go over the causes of cleft lip and palate, types, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Causes of cleft lip and palates
1. Incomplete fusion
When tissues in the baby’s face and mouth do not fuse properly, cleft lip and cleft palate develop. The fusion usually occurs during the first 6 to 10 weeks of pregnancy. It happens when a baby’s top jaw, nose, and mouth bones, and skin generally come together to create the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. It could be linked to inherited (genetic) variables.
2. Environmental factors
Certain environmental circumstances might exacerbate a congenital abnormality. When we talk about the environment, we simply refer to what the child’s mother does while pregnant.
Examples of these environmental factors that may lead to clefts in children include a pregnant woman using certain medications like anti-seizure during pregnancy and not getting enough prenatal nutrition. Other factors include exposure to certain toxins or smoking cigarettes, using drugs, and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
3. The history of the family
Parents who have a family history of cleft lip or palate are more likely to have a child with a cleft.
5. Infections during pregnancy
The health of the child should be monitored during and even after birth. Certain illnesses, such as rubella, can occur during pregnancy. Such infections may lead to these clefts. Apart from this, any kind of infection on an expectant mother can affect an unborn child.
Types of clefts
- A cleft palate only.
- A cleft lip only.
- Both a cleft lip and a cleft palate.
A cleft palate only
It is when a newborn is born with an opening in the roof of the mouth. As a result, a hole between the nose and the mouth might form in two ways.
- A soft palate- A soft palate occurs only in the back of the palate.
- A hard palate- A hard palate is a palate that extends behind the gums into the front of the mouth.
Cleft lips come in a variety of sizes. Incomplete cleft lips are those with only a little notch in the lip. Others are called complete cleft lips because they extend from the lip to the upper gum and into the nostril.
A cleft lip only
When a baby is born with a gap or opening in the upper lip, it is a cleft lip. When the baby’s lip fails to develop correctly early in pregnancy, it results in a split that can take two different forms.
- A unilateral cleft lip- A unilateral cleft lip is an aperture that only affects one side of the mouth or lip and is more common among children.
- A bilateral cleft lip- bilateral cleft lip refers to a cleft that affects both sides of the lip.
Both a cleft lip and a cleft palate
Cleft lip and palate occur when the opening in the palate meets with the openings in the gums and the lip of a child.
Diagnosis of Cleft lip and cleft palate
- A cleft in the lip or palate is usually visible right away at birth.
- Doctors can sometimes notice a cleft during a prenatal ultrasound. However, cleft palates are more difficult to discern without a cleft lip.
- Sometimes, although very rare, a cleft can form only in the muscles of the soft submucous cleft palate, which are located towards the rear of the mouth and are covered by the mouth’s lining. This type of cleft generally goes undiscovered at birth, and it is not diagnosed until symptoms appear later.
Symptoms of clefts
- If the baby is having difficulties feeding, then they might have a cleft.
- When you observe that the infant has difficulty swallowing and that liquids or foods are coming out of their nose, they have clefts.
- Dental issues.
- Ear infections that last a lot longer.
- Nasal speaking voice.
Cleft lip and cleft palate care team
Any child born with a cleft lip or palate needs a great deal of care, not just from the parents and the doctor. You may also require the services of a plastic surgeon, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, an orthodontist, a dentist, a speech-language pathologist, and an audiologist.
Treatments for cleft lips and palate
Surgery is the primary method of treatment that can be used to help children with clefts. Cleft surgery is typically performed on children while they are still young.
A Cleft lip repair
A Plastic surgeon will initially correct the infant’s cleft lip, usually when the newborn is around three months old, with a cheiloplasty procedure. While the baby is under general anesthesia, the surgery is performed in the hospital. The surgery’s primary goal is to close the cleft and improve the top lip and nose’s shape and symmetry. The correction of a cleft lip usually leaves a tiny scar beneath the nose.
Doctors may use special techniques such as lip adhesion or nasal alveolar molding may be used to bring the portions of the lip closer together and improve the form of the nose before cleft lip surgery in cases when the cleft lip is large.
A Cleft palate repair
When a baby is 10–12 months old, a palatoplasty procedure is used to repair a cleft palate. The doctor will cover the cleft in layers, restructure and restore the soft palate muscles to improve speech and create two incisions under the gums on either side of the palate to relieve tension during the palate repair palatoplasty.
The major purpose of this surgery, which takes about 2–3 hours and involves general anesthesia, is to close the aperture between the nose and mouth, assist in creating a functional palate, and prevent food and liquid from leaking out of the nose.
Following this type of surgery, you will require some adjustments to your child’s day-to-day care to ensure that your baby does not do anything that will cause the cleft palate repair to open. For example, your child may be required to follow a liquid diet for a week or two, or you may be required to keep your baby in special sleeves that prevent the elbows from bending.
2. Additional procedures
As children with cleft lip and palate grow older, they may still require additional procedures.
Speech surgery, Alveolar bone grafting surgery, nose surgery, and Orthognathic surgery are among the procedures they may require. Your doctor will confirm that to you if the child needs these additional services.
Instances where you might need to Call the Doctor after surgery
- If your child’s mouth or nose is bleeding profusely.
- If the child’s temperature is higher than 101.4°F (38.5°C).
- If the infant is not peeing.
- If the infant is in pain or discomfort for an extended period.
Prevention of Cleft lip and cleft palate
You can not always prevent your baby from having a cleft lip or palate. However, you may do things to help lessen the risk of your baby developing such congenital disabilities.
- During pregnancy, avoid smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages.
- Check with your doctor to see whether any medications you are taking are safe to take during pregnancy.
- If you do become pregnant, seek prenatal care as soon as possible.
- Take folic acid.
- Keep an eye on your weight when pregnant.
- If you have a family history of cleft lip and palate, you should seek genetic counseling.
- Get a preconception examination.
Cleft lip and palate are very widespread in today’s environment. If this happens to your child, do not panic and isolate them from the rest of the world out of guilt, neglect, or fear of rejection by people in this cruel world.
Instead, go out and get medical assistance from qualified professionals. These incidents have occurred in the past and are caused by a variety of factors. The good news is that most children with clefts fare on well after therapy and live a healthy life. For that reason, armed with this knowledge, you can take steps to prevent Cleft lip and palate in children throughout pregnancy as well as in your daily activities.