A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.
Here are four problems associated with cleft lip or palate.
- Eating problems
With a separation or opening in the palate, food and liquids can pass from the mouth back through the nose. Children with a cleft palate may need to wear a man-made palate to help them eat properly and ensure that they are receiving adequate nutrition until surgical treatment is provided.
- Ear infections/hearing loss
Children with cleft palate are at increased risk of ear infections since they are more prone to fluid build-up in the middle ear. If left untreated, ear infections can cause hearing loss. To prevent this from happening, children with cleft palate usually need special tubes placed in the eardrums to aid fluid drainage, and their hearing needs to be checked once a year.
- Speech problems
Children with cleft lip or palate may also have trouble speaking. These children’s voices don’t carry well, the voice may take on a nasal sound and the speech may be difficult to understand. Not all children have these problems and surgery may fix these problems entirely for some. For others, a special doctor, called speech pathologist, will work with the child to resolve speech difficulties.
- Dental problems
Children with clefts are more prone to a larger than average number of cavities and often have missing, extra, malformed, or displaced teeth requiring dental and orthodontic treatments. In addition, children with cleft palate often have an alveolar ridge defect. The alveolus is the bony upper gum that contains teeth. A defect in the alveolus can prevent permanent teeth from appearing, and prevent the alveolar ridge from forming. These problems can usually be repaired through oral surgery.