Forming during early pregnancy, cleft lips and palates are deformities of the face and oral cavity that occur during fetal development. A cleft is the result of insufficient tissue forming in the mouth and/or lip, and a failure of the existing tissue to join correctly. A cleft lip occurs when there is a gap in the top lip, and in most cases extends through the nasal base and into the upper jaw and gums of the child. A cleft palate occurs in the palate, the upper part of the mouth.
How Common Are Cleft Lips And Palates?
Approximately one out of every 700 babies born each year come into the world with cleft lips or palates, conditions which can occur concurrently or separately. Those who are of Latin, Native American, or Asian descent tend to experience this condition more often, and girls are half as likely to be born with cleft lips as boys, whereas cleft palates are primarily experienced by girls, though boys more often have this condition in conjunction with their cleft lips.
Why Do Clefts Occur?
Largely there is no known cause for this condition, though there are many suspected causes. It is strongly suggested by evidence that the condition is congenital, with greater occurrences happening in cases where one or both parents were born with a cleft. Certain medications, especially antispasmodics, have been indicated as possible causes, as well as acne medications like Accutane, and the drug methotrexate. There is also evidence to support the involvement of certain chemicals or viruses in occurrences of clefts.
When Can I Tell If My Child Has A Cleft Lip Or Palate?
Modern ultrasound equipment is capable of detecting these conditions in the womb, though if it goes undiagnosed at this time it is easy to determine during a physical exam shortly after birth. If a cleft lip or palate is present other diagnostic procedures may be used to determine if other abnormalities are present in the child.
What Difficulties Can Someone With Uncorrected Clefts Face?
Those with cleft lips or palates that are left untreated may be subject to a number of complications arising from these conditions. Most commonly the following are experienced:
- Eating Problems – Without a fully formed palate and/or lip eating can present a challenge. Liquids and foods can pass through the cleft, which can result in difficulty getting sufficient nutrition.
- Ear Infections/Loss of Hearing – Middle-ear fluid buildup is more common in children with these conditions, leading to higher occurrences of ear infections that can, if untreated, cause hearing loss.
- Problems With Speech – Children with these conditions have difficulty projecting their voices, and their speech may take on a nasal sound. Speech pathologists can aid these children in speaking normally.
- Dental Problems – Cavities, malformed teeth, missing teeth, and extra teeth are all common in children with cleft palates and lips.
Cleft palates and lips don’t need to be a permanent condition, and there are methotrexate specialists who treat these conditions in patients of all ages. If you or a loved one are living with a cleft, contact Khavkin Clinic for a consultation with Dr. Yevgeniy Khavkin.