Cleft palate

 
 
 

Cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth.  This condition occurs when the two halves of the roof of the mouth do not completely join during the 6-9th weeks of pregnancy. There is no known environmental cause of cleft lip or palate.  This issue has been well studied, and so far there is no evidence that clefts are caused by anything that a mother did or didn’t do during pregnancy.  Most cleft occur as a random birth defect.  In rare cases, they can run in families.  In most cases of cleft palate, a cleft lip is also present. A cleft palate can include both the hard and the soft palate. The hard palate is the bony part of the roof of the mouth toward the front of the mouth. The soft palate is the softer part near the back of the mouth which includes the uvula.  A cleft palate can also be “invisible”.  This is called a submucous cleft.  This happens when the muscles of the palate fail to fuse normally, creating a palate that does not move well.  The “skin” of the palate, or mucosa, is closed making the palate look fairly normal.  Thus, the “submucous” cleft is a cleft under the normal mucosa.  About 1 in 700 babies are born with cleft palate.

Cleft palate can cause difficulties with eating, speech, and facial growth.  Cleft palate can also interfere with normal eustachian tube function.  This can lead to frequent ear infections and decreased hearing.  Nearly all children with cleft palate will require placement of ear tubes to help with these problems.

For a discussion of the surgical treatment of cleft palate, click here

 

Caring for Cleft Palate


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