A cleft lip (palate) is a deformity that affects babies while they are still developing in their mothers’ wombs. An oral surgeon can treat these common oral and maxillofacial deformities with reconstructive and corrective procedures. Treating a cleft lip (palate) will improve a child’s appearance and oral function. Following is some helpful information on these deformities.
What causes cleft lips?
Researchers are not entirely sure what directly causes cleft lips and cleft palates. Most scientists agree that the cause is likely a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Some research has shown that clefts are more likely to develop if it runs in the family – especially if parents or siblings were born with clefts. Some medications taken during pregnancy may heighten the risk for clefts, including anti-convulsant medication and drugs used to treat acne and autoimmune diseases. Another potential cause behind clefts could be exposure to viruses or chemicals during fetal development but scientists currently have no definitive proof as to what compounds or chemicals could be responsible. The bottom line is that cleft palates and cleft lips cannot be prevented but they can be treated with the help of an oral surgeon.
How do cleft palates and lips affect a child’s health?
Cleft deformities can affect a child’s ability to eat properly and speak clearly. Children with these abnormalities are also more prone to developing dental caries along with ear infections because fluid buildup in the ears is common. Since clefts have profound effects on development and health, professional corrective and reconstructive treatments are strongly recommended.
How are clefts treated?
Fixing cleft abnormalities most often takes two to three procedures along with orthodontic treatment and routine dental care. The first surgery for cleft lips and palates occurs when a baby is about three to six months old. This procedure’s goal is to close the lip. Between nine and twelve months, babies will have surgery that reconstructs the palate for optimal development and oral function. Other procedures such as bone grafts may be necessary for some patients during adolescence.
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