The Complex Causes of Cleft Palate
Cleft Palate Symptoms Develop Early in Pregnancy
Dental Care for Children With Cleft Lip and Palate
Cleft palate, an opening in the roof of the mouth, and cleft lip, an opening in the lip, develops in the early stages of pregnancy. Repairing a cleft lip and palate can be done within an infant's first year, but the timing depends on the baby's health and other considerations. Typically, a team of specialists is required to repair a cleft lip and palate: a dentist, to evaluate any special dental needs; an orthodontist, to monitor jaw growth and bite problems; an oral surgeon, to perform tooth extractions, restorations and reconstruction; a prosthodontist, to develop oral appliances; and a pathologist, to help with speech. In this section, you'll find informative resources on cleft lip palate causes, care and repair.
Q: Is cleft palate genetic?
A: Cleft lip and palate are the most common birth defects associated with the head and neck. While doctors aren't certain yet what causes cleft lip palate, an infant may be more likely to be born with it if while pregnant a mother uses certain medications, drinks alcohol or takes illegal drugs, smokes, or is exposed to radiation. A family history of cleft palate can also play a role.
Q: Can cleft lip and palate be detected early?
A: In some cases, yes. With a fetal ultrasound, a cleft lip and palate may be detectable as early as 14-16 weeks into the pregnancy. This is most successful if the cleft lip or cleft palate is severe. Because an ultrasound is not always a dependable way to detect a cleft lip palate, doctors don't rely on it for diagnosis.
Q: What's involved in cleft lip palate repair?
A: Cleft palate surgery is required to repair clefting in the lip, palate or both. Treatment plans for complete cleft lip and palate repair typically include multiple surgeries, starting at 3-6 months and continuing until age 18. The first surgery involves creating a functional palate; other surgeries may be required to close a cleft lip, improve appearance, improve breathing and stabilize the jaw. Professionals ranging from plastic surgeons and oral surgeons to an orthodontist and prosthodontist may be involved in cleft lip palate repair. After surgery, the help of a speech pathologist and audiologist are often necessary to help with speech and hearing problems.
Q: Will my child have problems learning to speak after cleft lip palate surgery?
A: A child whose had cleft lip repair should have few, if any, problems learning how to speak. A child with a cleft palate, however, may need the help of a speech therapist or pathologist. Keep in mind that cleft palate and cleft lip repair can take several years to complete, during which time a variety of specialists will help your child address problems as they erupt.