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Brief Guide to Oral Clefts in Babies

Jul 20, 2022

Parents want what’s best for their babies. It’s true. But, some things are out of our control like oral clefts. The good news is that you’re doing your baby (or future baby) a big favor by learning about cleft palates and cleft lips in advance. Knowledge is power as a parent, and it can help you take care of your little one if problems do arise. You’ll learn that with the right treatment, there’s nothing to fear with this mouthy condition. 

Cleft Palate Versus Cleft Lip

Oral clefts are common conditions that happen before your baby is born. Simply put, oral clefts are openings or splits that occur in specific regions of the mouth. 

A Cleft Lip – The upper lip has an opening because it did not form completely.

Cleft Palate – The roof of your mouth has an opening because it did not form completely.

They range in size and type, and a child can be born with both or just have one over the other. Situations vary greatly. Sometimes oral clefts can be seen on an ultrasound, but it can often be difficult to tell before the baby is born. What can you do to prevent this?

The Cause of Oral Clefts

It may surprise you to know that oral clefts happen very early in pregnancy, yet can be tough to detect. Lips form around 4-7 weeks while the palate (roof of the mouth) forms around 6-9 weeks. Unfortunately, the cause of a cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown. However, certain risk factors may play a role in some cases. Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Disease (Diabetes)
  • Genetics and Family History of Oral Clefts
  • Lacking Certain Nutrients
  • Certain Medications 

In knowing this, it is especially important to take care of yourself and make sure your doctor is aware of any medical history. Some situations are just out of your control but for those situations that you can make better, choose the best path possible. 

oral clefts

Getting the Help Your Baby Needs

Oral clefts are more than just a condition that changes the symmetry of the face and mouth. When left untreated, oral clefts can cause further problems. Kids with a cleft lip or cleft palate can see negative effects on speech development, oral health, breathing, hearing, and feeding. Surgery early on in life is recommended and will help improve the shape of the area as well as close the open area. Cleft palate repair and cleft lip repair will also give kids a positive outlook when it comes to healthy development and growth. To see further improvement, some kids will need more than one surgery and help from other services like speech therapy. Although this sounds a bit daunting, take heart! Most kids who receive help early on go on to lead very full and normal lives.

oral clefts

Speech Therapy for Cleft Lips and Cleft Palates

For kids that go on to need it, a speech therapist (that’s us!) is an integral part of the oral cleft repair process. It’s best to get help as early as possible because any existing issues will become easier to treat. Kids with oral clefts compensate for issues with facial structure. Even if a problem is fixed, children become accustomed to their original way of speaking. Plus, it becomes a habit to replace harder sounds with something easier to pronounce. Ultimately, kids with oral cleft issues struggle with articulation. A speech therapist can step in and assist with these problems so that your child can speak with confidence. You may be given a bit of homework, but it’s worth it. Oral clefts are no match for an amazing mom and/or dad. 

Oral Clefts

If your child has a cleft lip or cleft palate, reach out to us today. Our speech therapy has the skills and the heart for successful outcomes. 

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