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What Problems Are Associated with Cleft Lip and Palate?

Posted May 22 2012 5:25am
Read on to know what problems are associated with cleft lip and palate and how they can be managed. Though as a parent, you may initially feel angry or guilty because of your child’s condition, take hope in the fact that it can be corrected and with negligible scarring too. You should also know that the majority of kids with a cleft require ongoing treatment for many years. However, the final outcomes and the associated benefits are well worth the wait.  

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Complications

Psychological Problems
– Owing to the availability of prompt and successful corrective surgeries, the chances of affected kids being bullied or teased at school is less. Nevertheless, the parents of such kids should encourage their children and advise them on how they can talk about their condition to their friends should they ask.

Dental Issues
– Children who have developed cleft lip and palate are inclined to have more dental issues than other children. The bone ridge that holds the gums and upper teeth may not develop in the right way. They may require dental braces. Such children are also more susceptible to tooth decay. However, tooth decay can be prevented by ensuring the child brushes following every main meal, limits sticky and sweet foods, utilizes a fluoride mouthwash and goes for a dental check-up a minimum of once every six months.

Ear and Chest Infections – The baby may also have a greater chance of catching ear infections because of the ear being connected to the mouth by a fine tube. When the baby is being fed, the milk may go into the ear canal leading to infections. These infections can be prevented by feeding in an upright position as far as is comfortable. In addition, if the baby is unable to swallow or suck milk properly, the milk may drip into the air passages leading to recurring chest infections.

Hearing Difficulties – Cleft palate sufferers often get glue ear, a condition where sticky fluid accumulates in the middle ear at the back of the eardrum. This can impair hearing. Thus children with this condition should compulsorily have regular ear checkups.

Speech Difficulties – Even after cleft palate surgery, the baby may require speech therapy. The progress the child makes with this therapy would be closely monitored.

Feeding Difficulties – If your child has cleft palate with or without a cleft lip, most probably, you wouldn’t be able to directly breastfeed him or even use a regular feeding bottle. When you discuss surgical treatment with a reconstructive plastic surgery specialist, he may recommend use of a certain feeder such as Pigeon feeder or Mead Johnson/Enfamil Cleft Feeder. If the baby only has a cleft lip, it is most likely that there won’t be any difficulty in breast-feeding him.


Considering that several problems are associated with cleft lip and palate, a comprehensive treatment plan is required to fix the problem. This plan would require consultations with specialists such as a plastic surgeon skilled in cleft surgery, an ENT surgeon, a speech and language therapist, a pediatric dentist and an orthodontist.
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