Cleft lip, palate and other craniofacial abnormalities
Introduction to Cleft lip, palate and other craniofacial abnormalities
A cleft is a gap in the upper lip or roof of the mouth (palate). It occurs in the baby during pregnancy when the different areas of the face do not join properly.
What is Cleft palate?
A cleft is a gap in the upper lip or roof of the mouth (palate). It occurs in the baby during pregnancy when the different areas of the face do not join properly. It is the most common facial birth defect in the UK, affecting approximately 1 in 700 babies. The severity of cleft palate varies. Unilateral cleft lip and palate is much more common than bilateral lip or cleft palate.
What causes a Cleft palate?
A cleft palate occurs when the structures that form the palate fail to fuse together properly during development. The exact cause is unknown. There is thought to be a genetic factor that is responsible for causing cleft palate. There are also a number of environmental factors linked to cleft palate, including: lack of folic acid during pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, alcohol consumption during pregnancy, obese mother and certain medications during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of a Cleft palate?
The appearance of a cleft palate can vary. It can either appear as an opening in the back of the soft palate to a complete cleft of the roof of the mouth. The cleft palate may also be hidden inside the mouth and may not be that obvious. Cleft palates are usually picked up relatively soon after birth as babies experience feeding difficulties, such as: failure to suckle or the escape of milk down the nose.
Some types of cleft palate are difficult to diagnose early on. Your child should see a GP in the following circumstances: milk coming out the nose during feeding, unable to suck through a straw or blow out a candle or have nasal-sounding speech. These symptoms may be indicative of a sub mucous cleft palate.
How is a Cleft palate treated?
Cleft palate is usually treated with surgery. Speech therapy and dental care is usually needed to treat associated symptoms of cleft palate. The cleft treatment is made up of healthcare professionals working in a multi-disciplinary team. A cleft nurse will provide initial advice on feeding, a cleft surgeon will repair the cleft, a paediatrician will treat symptoms, a speech and language therapist will treat speech problems, a dentist will help prevent dental decay and an orthodontist will help jaw development.