Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate
Cleft lip and palate, also known as an orofacial cleft, refers to a condition where a baby is born with an opening in either the lip, roof of the mouth or both. Cleft lip and palate is a very common birth defect in the United States, affecting approximately every 1 to 2 babies of every 1,000 babies born. Both a cleft lip and a cleft palate are treatable and are typically repaired during the first year or two of a baby’s life.
How Does A Cleft Lip or Palate Form?
Cleft lip and/or palate is a birth defect that forms within the first 6 to 10 weeks of life. During pregnancy, approximately around week 8, the bones and tissue of the baby’s nose, upper jaw and mouth should fuse together. However, this does not always happen. Occasionally, this fusion does not complete and thus a cleft lip or palate is formed. The cleft is formed when the fusion is not complete, leaving an opening of the lip or mouth.
Cleft palates and lips vary in size and severity where they can range from just a small opening of the lip or it can extend up to the nose and down to the gum line. A cleft can be only on the soft palate of the mouth, which is located at the back of the mouth; or it can extend onto the hard palate, which is further towards the front of the mouth. A cleft can be on both sides of the mouth (bilateral) or just on one side of the mouth (unilateral).
Most all clefts fit into one of three categories:
Cleft lips can occasionally be seen on prenatal ultrasounds, although it is more likely that it (as well as a cleft palate) will go unnoticed until after birth when the inside of the mouth can be closely examined.
Where Does a Cleft Lip or Palate Come From?
There is a bit of uncertainty as to why a cleft lip and/or palate develops; but most doctors agree that clefting is the result of either environmental factors (like vitamin deficiencies and/or medication) or genetic factors (i.e. Inherited) or both. Either parent is capable of carrying the cleft gene, of which can be passed along during conception to the child. Clefting is most common in babies of Native American, Asian or Latino decent.
Clefting can be the result of a mother taking certain medications while pregnant, such as certain anti-seizure medications. Clefting can also come as the result of a pregnant mother not getting the appropriate amount of vitamins (such as folic acid) during pregnancy. Additionally, exposure to certain chemicals while pregnant can also cause clefting. The use of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes during pregnancy can also increase the risk of a baby being born with a cleft lip or palate. Many doctors agree that mothers who binge drink (more than 4 drinks at a time) also greatly increase their risk of having a baby born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
Cleft Lip Experts
Your Lake Norman Oral and Facial Surgeon can help repair a cleft lip or cleft palate should you have a baby born with one. Contact us today for a consultation.