What is a Cleft Lip/ Palate

We have all seen children with a "rabbit lip", but very few of us know the reasons and consequences behind this anomaly. The cleft lip/ palate is an inborn issue. Every 1 of 700 children is born so.

How is it formed?

In the early stages of the pregnancy the separate parts of the face develop themselves autonomously, and then they connect each other. Sometimes some of these parts are not fully linked, and thus, the cleft appears. There are different types of clefts with different complications.

A cleft lip

The cleft lip is a condition when the upper lip has not fully developed. It could be one-sided or two-sided, and could affect even the gums.

A cleft palate
The cleft palate is formed when the upper part of the mouth (palate) has not fully closed itself. The rear part of the palate (right before the throat) is called soft palate, and the frontal part - had palate. If you touch your palate with your tongue, you could easily feel the difference between the soft and hard palate. The cleft of the palate could vary - from a small оpening in the rear part of the soft palate to a fully separated upper part of the mouth (soft and hard palate).

Why do the clefts appear?

The reasons behind their formation are not fully clear, but among the experts there is a consensus, that there is no single factor that causes these types of anomalies. They are a combination of genetic factors and of the environment in which the pregnancy happens.

What is the treatment?

Тhe leading one is the surgery, but in order the correct development of the children with such anomalies to be guaranteed, it is necessary that other specialists participate as well - оrthodontist, otolaryngologist, speech therapist, a specialized nurse, pediatrician, psychologist, geneticist. It is important to be noted that the treatment is not of one stage.

The lip is most often operated when the baby is 2-3 months old, and it is recommended that the cleft palate is to be recovered when the kid is 10 -12 months old. Some additional operations could be necessary - bone grafting, if the gums are affected and so on.

Is the speech affected in case of a cleft lip/ palate?

Тhe children with a cleft palate start speaking in relatively normal terms, but mutations from the correct speaкing occur often. In order such harmful speech habits to be avoided, the specialists aim to correct the palate before these habits appear. After the operation of correcting the palate, most of the children develop normal speaking. Sometimes, even children with operated cleft palates could find it hard to utter some sounds, which could affect the quality of speaking and to lead to its nasal sounding. As a result of it some children could need the assistance of a speech therapist.

What types of problems do the children with cleft lips/ palates encounter in school?

The teachers need to be informed that the child could suffer from bad hearing, which could affect its concentration, and thus - additional efforts are to be utilized in order for its attention span to be kept. The experts have found out four other areas in which the child could need some assistance - low self-esteem, to be ridiculed by the other children, absence from school due to the treatment, communication issues.

Learn more on the topic from the page of the Association of Patients with Facial Anomalies and Their Parents - ALA.