It happens to approximately one baby per 700, and it is regarded as one of the most common birth defects. What is it? It’s a cleft lip or cleft palate, a “craniofacial abnormality” that occurs when the clefts of lips and palettes don’t fuse normally during early fetal development, leaving a split or gap, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO).
There are various forms of the defect ranging from a barely noticeable cleft lip to a major cleft palate, which we’ll focus primarily on here. This large separation in the palate can interfere with normal tasks such as eating and speaking, notes the AAO. Here are six facts about cleft palates to discuss for National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month in July…
1. We All Start with A Cleft Palate
The academy stresses that cleft palates are not a defect that occurs late in development or after birth. As a fetus, we all have cleft lips and palates, and the natural course of action is for those clefts (splits) to fuse together somewhere between the 6 and 11-week mark.
WebMD adds that cleft palates can occur when there’s “not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.” The causes behind this are largely unknown, although there are risk factors we’ll examine in the next slide.