Cleft lip and/or cleft palate occurs in about 1 in every 650 live births in Scotland. Problems early in pregnancy mean that the sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth do not fuse together as they should.
Cleft palate: In cleft palate the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nose above. It varies in size and may affect only the soft palate (towards the throat) or also the hard palate (roof of the mouth). Alone it is not as noticeable as cleft lip because it is inside the mouth.
Cleft lip: A cleft lip can range from a slight notch in the coloured part of the upper lip to complete separation on one or both sides of the lip, and extending up to the nose. Cleft lip and cleft palate often occur together. It is important to realise that most babies born with a cleft are otherwise healthy.
What causes cleft lip and palate?
The exact cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is not completely understood. Clefts are however usually caused by multiple genes and also environmental factors that scientists, through research, are now beginning to understand. When a combination of genes and environmental factors cause a condition it is described as “multifactorial” (many factors contribute to the cause).
Management of cleft lip and cleft palate.
There may be many people involved in the management of a cleft, because the skills of many different specialists are needed to help with the problems that can occur with a cleft. The following are some members of the team: surgeon, cleft nurse specialist, paediatrician, orthodontist, speech and language specialist, psychologist, otolaryngologist, (ear-nose-throat specialist), paediatric dentist and geneticist. They all require specialist training in cleft care to provide the best possible treatment.