What is Cleft Lip and Palate?

In simple terms, a cleft lip happens when a baby's lip doesn't form correctly in the womb, so the baby is born with a visible split in his or her upper lip. Cleft palate means that the soft roof of the mouth has a noticeable split in it.

Can Cleft Lip and Palate Be Fixed?

Cleft lip and palate affects more than just a child's appearance. It can seriously interfere with the ability to breathe, speak, eat and develop normally. It can also make children more susceptible to issues like ear infections, hearing loss and dental problems.

Fortunately, there are simple surgeries that can be performed to correct a cleft lip, cleft palate and any associated issues like facial deformity or nasal malformation.

Remember that the purpose of fixing these defects is to help the child's overall quality of life. This means that the necessary surgeries are usually performed as early as three months of age. It also means that these children may need a series of surgeries throughout their early years.

Does Cleft Lip Affect Speech?

Children born with a cleft lip or cleft palate often have speech difficulties. This is why psychologists and speech therapists are always included in a child's treatment team.

Because the soft palate is a crucial part of correctly forming certain sounds, children with cleft palate almost always need speech therapy so that they can interact with others properly. In addition, both cleft lip and cleft palate can affect a child's hearing, and this can hinder language development as well.

If a child only has a cleft lip, it's less likely that he or she will have serious speech issues, but it's still important to have professional evaluations done early on.

How Can I Prevent These Deformities?

Unfortunately, there is no clear set of rules or guidelines to follow in order to prevent cleft lip and palate from occurring.

In some cases, the cause is genetic, and a doctor can tell you the likelihood of passing on a cleft to a future child. However, the majority of cases have no discernible cause and can't be pinned on any specific environmental factors. Even healthy and mindful pregnancies can sometimes result in a baby born with a cleft.

If you have a family history of clefts, you can speak with a geneticist about how likely it is that the trait gets passed on. Genetic testing can also help you determine if a cleft is caused by a syndrome rather than being a one-off occurrence.

Cleft Lip and Palate is Rare But Treatable

While cleft lip and palate can cause difficulties for children initially, there are straightforward treatment options that allow affected children to lead happy, healthy and full lives.

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