What Causes Cleft Lip in Babies?

What Causes Cleft Lip in Babies?

Team General Dentistry

Cleft lip is a congenital disorder affecting newborns' facial structure arising from incomplete fusion of upper lip and palate tissues during fetal development. Complications such as feeding difficulty or speech impairment arise from this condition besides social stigma.

The precise causes for cleft lip remain elusive however risk factors increasing incidence have been identified – possibly due to genetic disposition; exposure to certain medications or toxic chemicals while pregnant, as well as environmental causes playing a role.

This piece aims to analyze intricacies associated with cleft-lip in infants – an enigmatic yet important topic for expecting parents and healthcare professionals alike. Gain key insights on relevant influences contributing towards its development and prospective risk-inducing agents all while exploring this multifaceted but little-understood disorder through our comprehensive guide.

What is Cleft Lip and What Causes It?

Cleft lip is a birth defect that affects newborns' facial structures, caused when tissues composing their upper lip and palate do not fuse correctly during fetal development. The severity of cleft lip varies, from small notches in their upper lip all the way through to complete separation that affects not only palate but also nose as well. 

Cleft lip can occur alone or as part of other birth defects. Males are more prone than females to experiencing this birth condition but it affects any race or ethnic group.

Researchers believe that cleft lip arise due to both genetic and environmental influences; some genes may increase the likelihood of having one while environmental exposures such as drugs during gestation may also play a part.

Risk Factors Associated with Cleft Lip

Numerous factors increase the odds that a baby will be born with a cleft lip, including:

  • If one or both parents or siblings have had a cleft lip condition, the risk increases exponentially for their offspring. 
  • Boys are more likely than girls to be born with a cleft lip, as are certain ethnic groups such as Asians, Native Americans and Latinos. 
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption during gestation also increase the chances of having children born with cleft lip.
  • Certain medications, including antiseizure medications and retinoids, may increase this risk further. 
  • Exposure to certain viruses and chemicals also pose potential threats during gestation  to increase the risk of cleft lip.

Cleft lip can often be diagnosed during gestation via ultrasound scan. After birth, physical examination can confirm its presence; additional tests such as CT scanning or MRI may be necessary in some instances to ascertain its extent.

Treatment Options for Cleft Lip

Treatment for cleft lip will depend on its severity. Surgery may be necessary in most cases to repair it; its goal should be to restore appearance and function while also preventing complications like feeding difficulties and speech disorders.

Surgery to repair cleft lip is often performed between two and three months old, with this process consisting of closing off the cleft and reshaping it to give a more normal appearance. Sometimes additional surgeries may be required in order to improve functionality between lip and nose.

Infants born with cleft lips require special care after surgery in order to ensure proper healing and avoid complications, including using special feeding bottles or nipples and keeping the surgical site clean while monitoring growth and development.

Speech therapy may also be advised in order to help babies acquire proper speech and language abilities. Regular check-up appointments with doctors and surgeons will enable them to monitor a baby's development and deal with any complications or unexpected events that arise.

Preventing Cleft Lip in Infants

While the exact cause of cleft lip is not fully understood, there are steps that expectant mothers can take to reduce their risk of having a baby with the condition. These include:

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding certain medications
  • Getting vaccinated
  • Eating a healthy diet

Cleft Lip & Palate Surgery in NYC

Cleft lip is a complex condition affecting newborn babies, with many contributing factors being unidentified by scientists and not fully understood yet. Researchers have identified various risk factors which increase its likelihood.

Early diagnosis and treatment are critical components to ensuring optimal results for infants born with cleft lip. By understanding the factors contributing to the formation and taking steps to lower risk factors, expectant mothers can help ensure the health and welfare of their infant.

Upper West Side Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery performs cleft lip and palate surgical procedures in NYC. Contact us at 212-466-6984 to schedule an appointment.