Cleft lip and cleft palate: Can they be corrected? Find out!

Cleft lip
Cleft lip and cleft palate are problems that any child may be born with. They may occur together as cleft lip and palate or separately, due to abnormal facial development during growth in the womb. A cleft is an opening that follows the failure of the body’s natural structures that form before birth.

Cleft palate occurs when the two plates of the skull that form the roof of the mouth are not completely joined. It can occur as complete (soft and hard palate, possibly including a gap in the jaw) or incomplete (a ‘hole’ in the roof of the mouth, usually as a cleft soft palate).

Adolescents with cleft palate/lip are at a higher risk of developing psychosocial problems especially those relating to peer relationships and appearance, particularly among girls. This is probably due to the associated stigma of visible deformities and possible speech impediments.

Affected children tend to report feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and alienation from their peers. Usually, the parent gets stressed, leading the affected child to have reduced social skills.

As a parent, you need to provide a strong support system to prevent the development of negative self-concept in your child with a cleft palate. You should discuss with your child ways to handle negative social situations related to their condition.

Remember, due to puberty, and peer pressure including issues related to self-esteem, dating and social acceptance, the appearance of the adolescent view as the most important characteristic above intelligence and humor.

Affected boys may suffer problems related to withdrawal, attention and thought to lead to anxiety or depression or aggressiveness. The girls may develop problems relating to self-concept and appearance.

Cleft lip/palate may cause problems with feeding, ear disease (which may lead to hearing loss), speech and socialization. Cleft lip and palate is very treatable, with a combination of surgery, specialized devices and speech, and hearing therapy, depending on the age and degree of severity.

Dr. Ombeva Malande is a pediatrics and child health expert
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