According to the Cleft Palate Foundation, over 6,800 children are born in the U.S. with a cleft palate or lip every year. A cleft palate happens when an opening in the roof of the mouth occurs because the left and right parts of the mouth fail to fuse. This leaves a space of varying degrees between the mouth and the sinus. This type of congenital deformity typically occurs during the first three months of gestation and is usually genetic in origin.
Not merely a cosmetic issue, having a cleft palate will cause difficulty with bottle or breast feeding and present speech development problems. Additionally, a cleft palate will cause teeth to emerge crookedly.
Pediatricians and other specialists will determine the best stage in a child’s development to have a cleft palate repaired. Timing is important to lessen the impact on speech development. After the initial correction is made, dental and orthodontic consultations will need to be made to determine what, if any, impact has been made on the child’s tooth development.
Untreated cleft palate is rarer in the United States but can be common in developing nations. July is national Cleft and cranio-facial Awareness month. Raising awareness about this highly treatable affliction can help prevent and aid cranio-facial afflictions.