Facts About Cleft Palate
Cleft lip and palate are the most common facial defects in newborns, affecting 1 in every 700 infants. The condition occurs when parts of the face -- which form separately during the first weeks of pregnancy -- fail to come together as they should, probably because of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Cleft lips vary in severity, from a small notch in the colored portion of the lip to a complete split that extends up to the nose and through the gum line. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the child's mouth. Clefts can occur on the right or the left side of the face, or on both sides.
During a cleft-lip repair procedure, which takes about three hours, a surgeon rearranges the skin and muscles of the upper lip, brings them together, and stitches them closed. Palate repair, a more complicated surgery that involves creating tissue flaps in the soft palate, usually takes place when a child is between 9 and 14 months of age. Cleft palate has no effect on a child's mental abilities. For more information, contact the Cleft Palate Foundation at 800-242-5338 or log on to www.cleftline.org.