By: Peyton Borel
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate
What is it?
A cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate (the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth), and/or the soft palate (the soft back portion of the roof of the mouth)
Signs and Symptoms
A child may have one or more birth defects.
A cleft lip may be just a small notch in the lip. It may also be a complete split in the lip that goes all the way to the base of the nose.
A cleft palate can be on one or both sides of the roof of the mouth. It may go the full length of the palate.
Other symptoms include:
- Change in nose shape (how much the shape changes varies)
- Poorly aligned teeth
Problems that may be present because of a cleft lip or palate are:
- Failure to gain weight
- Feeding problems
- Flow of milk through nasal passages during feeding
- Poor growth
- Repeated ear infections
- Speech difficulties
How does it happen?
No one knows why a particular baby has cleft lip or cleft palate. Sometimes the condition runs in families. This means that a person with cleft lip or cleft palate may have a relative with the same thing. Other times, cleft palate is part of a syndrome, meaning there are birth defects in other body parts, too. Sometimes a cleft may be related to what happened during a mother's pregnancy, like a medication she may have taken, a lack of certain vitamins, or exposure to cigarette smoke. Most of the time, however, the cause of the cleft is unknown.
A cleft lip may require one or two surgeries depending on the extent of the repair needed. The initial surgery is usually performed by the time a baby is 3 months old. Repair of a cleft palate often requires multiple surgeries over the course of 18 years. The first surgery to repair the palate usually occurs when the baby is between 6 and 12 months old.