It may be a bit surprising, but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 4,440 babies in the United States are born with a cleft lip and a little more than 2,600 are born with a cleft palate. Considered to be two of the most common birth defects, they can pose serious problems for infants and children if left untreated. As we observe Birth Defects Awareness Month, a pediatric dentist in Katy provides a more in-depth look at each of these abnormalities and how they occur.
What is a Cleft Lip and Palate?
When a child is born, if their lips or mouth did not form correctly during pregnancy, the result can be a cleft lip and cleft palate. They’re also known as “orofacial clefts.”
How Do They Occur?
A cleft lip typically forms during the fourth and seventh week of pregnancy and occurs when the lip tissues do not join completely before the child is born.
A cleft palate usually forms between the sixth and ninth week of pregnancy and occurs when the tissue that creates the roof of the mouth doesn’t come together before they are born.
It is important that the bones and tissues of the nose, upper jaw, and mouth fuse together; otherwise, your child will be left with one or both of these birth defects.
What Are Common Risk Factors?
Some of the most common risk factors that can result in the baby having a cleft lip or cleft palate include:
- Inadequate consumption of folic acid
- Anti-seizure medications
Apart from those listed above, genetics can also be a reason for this type of birth defect to develop. In fact, infants with Asian, Latino, and Native American descent are at an increased risk of being born with a cleft lip or palate.
What Can Happen to the Mouth if They’re Left Untreated?
If a cleft lip or palate is left untreated, a baby can have difficulty feeding. If space in their upper mouth exists, the ability to suck is hindered. This is why many mothers must forgo breastfeeding and instead opt for an alternative method to feed their babies.
As the child grows, additional problems can develop such as hearing loss, difficulties speaking, and low self-esteem. Children and teenagers with a cleft lip or palate may face teasing, bullying, or avoidance, all of which can lead to psychological and emotional challenges.
It is also during this time that dental problems can begin to appear. Should cavities, misshapen, missing, or improperly aligned teeth occur due to a cleft lip or palate, a dentist for kids in Katy will need to provide proper treatment to remedy the issue and save the child’s oral health from deteriorating further.
If the parents consent, these birth defects can be surgically treated as early as 8 to 12 weeks of age. Naturally, the severity of the initial defect will determine how complex the surgery will be, but by closing the gap in the palate or lip, a child can function like normal with no problems as they grow and develop.
About the Author
Dr. A is a board-certified pediatric dentist in Katy, TX. Completing his Doctor of Dental Medicine at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine and graduating Magna Cum Laude, he promises to provide his patients with accessibility, affordability, expertise, and an animated personality. Whether he is providing a regular checkup or addressing the needs of a child with a common birth defect, he and his team are equipped and ready for all types of dental problems. For questions about the services we offer, visit our website or call (832) 789-8348.