Cleft palates are one of the most common facial birth abnormalities and can be corrected with the assistance of a skillful oral surgeon.
Having a cleft palate at birth can cause health issues from the very beginning — from nursing and dental development to later concerns with speech patterns and hearing. A little one may also experience frequent colds, fluid in the ears, sore throats, and complications with adenoids and tonsils.
A cleft palate can be diagnosed at birth, and shortly after, you can begin to make a treatment plan with your oral surgeon for the proper course of action.
At the Alaska Center For Oral + Facial Surgery, we have in-house oral surgeons that have worked and trained extensively to provide the best cleft palate care. For stunning cleft palate transformations with a better functioning palate, partner with us today.
Worldwide, one in 700 babies are born with cleft palate. A cleft palate is a facial abnormality that occurs when the different structures of a fetus’s face aren’t able to develop in early pregnancy and so the parts do not join properly. The palate is then left with a gap and sometimes the patient will also have a cleft lip, but it is not mutually exclusive. A cleft palate differs from a cleft lip in that it affects the roof of the mouth, whereas a cleft lip is only on the lips.
There are varying types of cleft palate including:
- A cleft on both the hard and soft palate
- A cleft lip and cleft palate affecting both sides (bilateral)
- A cleft lip and palate affecting only one side (unilateral)
The Normal Anatomy of the Palate
To get a better idea of what a cleft palate is, it can be easier to understand when you know how the palate is supposed to correctly form.
The hard palate is the hard structure on the roof of your mouth — it is the front part of your palate positioned in front of the soft palate. This bone is hidden when you open your mouth and is lined with mucosa, the moist, pink tissue that typically cover your lungs, mouth, nose, digestive and urinary tracts.
You can feel your hard palate at the roof of your mouth as it is the structure that separates your mouth from your nose. In its absence, there is no distinction between oral and nasal functions and this complicates eating, drinking, and speech. The hard palate prevents food from getting into the nasal cavity, and for speech, it keeps air in the mouth instead of the nose.
The soft palate sits behind the hard palate and can be traced towards the back of your mouth. When you breathe, you can feel the soft palate move up and down. When the soft palate is underdeveloped speech is often impaired — the air is going into the nose instead of the mouth. It also causes issues when eating because the soft palate functions in helping to push food towards the back, so swallowing food can be difficult.
There are a few more structures to navigate before we address cleft palate surgery, so stay tuned for part two!