In Bangladesh and Asia generally the incident of cleft lip ‘ palate is in the region of 2.2 in every 1000 newly born babies, but only 1.0 in western countries and half that again amongst the indigenous people of Africa.

Cleft lip / palate is a disfigurement due to the malformation that occur in the early stages of pregnancy. It happens when there’s not sufficient tissue in the mouth or surrounding area, and therefore cannot join together correctly.

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Cleft Lip

The lip and the palate develop separately; therefore it is possible to see one of the two malfunctions or the two together.

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Unilateral cleft lip and palate

Cleft lip is created when there’s a parting or a gap on one or two sides of the upper lip. Sometimes it lengthens from the separation of the lip and comprises the bones of the upper jaw or / and upper gum.

The cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. This can happen in the hard part of the front of the palate and / or the back softer end of the palate.

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Cleft palate

The condition can occur on the two sides of the lip / palate which is called bilateral.

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Bilateral cleft lip and palate

The condition can create all kinds of problems especially feeding problems for young babies; can cause ear infections, speech defects and orthodontic / dental problems. This means that a patient could be treated over a substantial period by a multiplicity of specialists including plastic surgeons, orthodontists, speech therapists etc.

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Bilateral cleft with protruding pre-maxilla

What are the causes?

Much research has been carried out on the condition and according to the specialists it can be an amalgamation of various factors, and nothing can be done to avert the condition. It can be a combination of genetic, e.g. inherited, and environmental, e.g. lack of nourishment and folic acid.

The operation can take from 45 minutes to three hours. This naturally depends on the severity of the condition. When a patient with the cleft combination is treated, that is with a cleft lip and palate, the lip is repaired first, and then after a period and depending on the age of the patient, another one is undertaken to repair the palate. Generally, the young child has to be healthy and strong and at least three months old to have the lip repaired and over a year old to have the palate repaired. It is also possible for a patient with a serious condition to have further surgery including orthodontic / dental treatment.

The results of cleft surgeries undertaken today are highly successful, and the traces and effects of the condition can hardly be detected.

Examples of cleft palate a fortnight after the operation.

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