Cleft lip and palate are malformations of the face and oral openings that occur during the developmental stages of the embryo. This results due to inadequate tissues in the mouth or lip area and inadequate joining or closing of the tissues that are there.
Formation of lip occurs between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy. Special cells from each side of the head begin to grow towards the center of the face and finally join together at the center to complete the facial structures. Abnormal joining of the tissues of the lips and mouth results in cleft lip.
Palate, or the roof of the mouth is hard up to some distance and becomes soft at the back fo the mouth. This helps in separating the nasal and oral cavities to demarcate them. The closure of the palate to separate the oral and nasal cavities prevents the food from going to nasal cavity while swallowing.
Formation of the palate occurs between sixth and ninth weeks of the embryo’s growth. Tissues making up the roof of the mouth do not join together, resulting in cleft palate.
Children born with cleft lip and palate may have other congenital abnormalities like malformed teeth and ears. Most often, cleft lip and palate occur without any other abnormalities and the children will have normal development both physically and mentally.
The cleft lip and palate can occur in the following combinations:
Symptoms of cleft lip and palate:
The split on the lip or cleft is clearly identifiable at birth. The appearance may be:
The cleft lip and palate affects many functions of the baby.
The doctors immediately notice the cleft lip and palate during birth. Sometimes the condition is noticed even before the baby is born during the routine ultrasound scan.
Treatment goals for cleft lip and palate are to improve the baby’s ability to consume foods, speak and hear normally, apart from achieving a normal appearance on the face. This is done by a team of surgeons, doctors and healthcare specialists.
Surgical repairs of the cleft lip and palate is done at specific ages for each type of cleft and follow-up surgeries make the repair complete.