One of the most saddening congenital deformities affecting children all over the world is the clef lip and palate. Thanks to modern technology, we can now fix these problems with cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, but in third world countries, many children still go without this kind of help. A cleft is a separation in the body’s natural structure, and is caused on the face during gestation. A cleft lip and palate occur in about one in 600 to 800 births and are also called hare lip.
There are three different types of cleft lip. The unilateral incomplete cleft lip looks like a dent in the upper lip that does not reach the nose. It is also sometimes called a partial or incomplete cleft. If the dent reaches one nostril the cleft lip is known as a unilateral complete cleft. If it reaches to both nostrils, it is known as a bilateral complete cleft lip. If this does not extend into the mouth, cosmetic surgery is what is needed to fix the condition.
A cleft palate is a bit more of a serious condition. In this case, the two plates that form the skill in the hard palate, or roof of the mouth, do not completely join. Again, there are three kinds of cleft palates. The incomplete cleft palate is only a problem within the mouth and does not reach the nose. The complete lip and palate clefs reach the nostrils and are either unilateral (reaching one nostril) or bilateral (both nostrils). If this occurs, a combination of surgeries is needed to fix the problem. Usually, surgery can be done immediately after birth, but most doctors prefer to wait until the baby is ten weeks old so that he or she has time to recover from the birthing process itself.
Cleft lips and palates form due to both genetic and environmental factors. They are most prevalent in Asian, Latino, and Native American races, but can affect any child. Cosmetic surgery can really help these babies. Not only will it form a more normal-looking face, but it will also help with the various speech problems a child will have if trying to learn to speak with a cleft lip and palate.
If your baby has a clef lip or palate, you should talk to your doctor about the options available to you. In most cases, this surgery can be covered by your medical insurance, and it is definitely a good idea to help your child. Many successful people were born with cleft lips and palates, so surgery can really help.