Cleft palate, a type of orofacial cleft, is an oral and facial malformation that usually originates during the first few weeks of pregnancy, while the fetus is still developing. The clefting of the palate happens as a result of a deficiency of tissue in the mouth region, which leads to an improper fusion of the available tissue.
What Is a Cleft Palate?
A cleft palate is a physical opening or split occurring in the roof of the mouth, which is also referred to as the palate. The anomaly may involve the split of either the soft back portion of the palate or the hard and bony front region of the roof of the mouth. The cleft often extends up to the opening of the nostrils on the outside.
The condition originates when the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate fail to join together. In most of these cases, the patient is bound to develop a cleft lip as well.
The cleft palate can occur either as a complete cleft involving the soft and hard palate with a gap in the jaw, or a partial cleft occurring as a hole in the soft palate region of the mouth. As a result of a cleft palate, even the uvula is split up due to the improper fusion of the nasal septum, median palantine processes, or lateral palantine processes.
Reasons for Developing a Cleft Palate
Although in most cases the exact cause for a cleft palate cannot be determined, there are certain reasons that might be identified as a probable cause for the condition. Some of the reasons might be smoking or alcohol consumption during pregnancy, genetics, folic acid deficiency, obesity during pregnancy, and some specific medications taken early in the first trimester.
Problems That Can Arise Due To a Cleft Palate
A cleft palate may give rise to several problems early after childbirth if a correctional surgery is not performed on the infant.
•Infants with a cleft in their palate often have a lot of difficulty in breastfeeding or ingesting from an ordinary bottle due to the fact that they are unable to formulate a proper seal with their mouth.
•Many newborn babies with cleft palates have a tendency to develop ear infections or fluid retention in their ears. As a result, they often develop frequent hearing problems early in their life.
•A direct consequence of a cleft palate is an improper and deformed development of the teeth and gums. Affected children are at a higher risk of developing dental problems such as cavities and tooth decay.
•Owing to the gap in a cleft palate, there is a leakage of air into the nasal cavity of the child, which might lead to nasal emissions or hypernasal voice resonance while talking. As a direct consequence of the aforementioned condition, the child might develop serious speech problems later in their life.
Although a cleft palate might appear to be a grave condition for an infant, there are surgical procedures that are highly effective in treating the condition permanently.
Contact Us to Learn More
Dr. Steve Byrd is a board-certified plastic surgeon with a great deal of experience in correction of cleft palates. Find out about the corrective procedures we offer by contacting our office for a consultation.