What Causes Cleft Lip And Palate?

Cleft lip and palate is a birth defect in which the upper lip and roof of the mouth don’t fuse together early in pregnancy. Cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the upper lip, while cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. These conditions can occur separately or together, and can vary in severity.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, about one out of every 700 newborns has a cleft palate or lip. There are many ways to help your child if he or she has been diagnosed with cleft lip or palate. Read more to find out the causes of cleft lip and palate and how they can be treated.

Cleft lip and palate causes

The causes of clefts are unknown, but they tend to run in families. If you have a child with a cleft lip or palate, your risk of having another child with one is about 4%. The cause of most cases of clefts is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic factors include mutations in certain genes that control the development of the face and mouth during embryonic growth. These mutations can be inherited from one or both parents, or can occur spontaneously.

Environmental factors that may increase your baby’s chance of having a problem during pregnancy include:

  • Smoking during pregnancy (or exposure to secondhand smoke)
  • Alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Radiation therapy or chemotherapy before conception or early in pregnancy

Cleft lip and palate complications

Cleft lip and palate can lead to a variety of complications, including:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • Ear infections
  • Speech problems
  • Dental problems
  • Psychological and emotional issues
  • Nasal deformities

There are many ways to help your child if he or she has been diagnosed with cleft lip or palate. The most important thing to remember is that early intervention is key.

How are cleft lip and palate treated?

Cleft lip and palate can be treated and managed with a combination of surgery and other therapies. The specific treatment plan will depend on the individual case and the severity of the cleft. In most cases, cleft lip and palate surgery will be required to repair the opening or split in the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth.

It’s important to note that cleft lip and palate surgery is usually performed in multiple stages. The first surgery is usually performed when the baby is between 3 and 6 months old, and the second surgery is typically performed between 6 and 12 months old. This allows the child’s face and jaw to grow and develop before the final repair is made.

Although the surgery can improve the appearance and function of the lip and/or palate, it may not be perfect and additional treatments may be necessary in the future. Postoperative care is also crucial for the success of the surgery and will likely include regular check-ups, speech therapy, and orthodontic treatment. 

If your child has been diagnosed with a cleft or you have cleft concerns, get in touch with Mr Shaheel Chummun who is the only plastic surgeon in the South West of England who undertakes complex cleft rhinoplasties and can provide you with expert advice.