Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month
Did you know that orofacial clefts are one of the most frequently occurring birth defects in the United States? Each year about 4,400 infants are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate, and about 2,700 are born with a cleft palate alone. That is about 1 in 700 births. Craniofacial defects are present at birth and affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face. Cleft lip or palate occurs when the tissue that makes up the upper lip or roof of the mouth does not join together completely. Craniosynostosis occurs when the bones in the baby’s skull fuse too early. Microtia occurs when the external portion of the ear is missing. These are three common defects, but there are also many more complex, life-threatening craniofacial conditions.
Causes of orofacial clefts and craniofacial defects are mostly unknown but it is thought to be a combination of genes and other risk factors such as diabetes (prior to pregnancy), smoking, maternal thyroid disease, and certain medications. Prevention strategies include control of diabetes and prevention of tobacco and alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Orofacial clefts and craniofacial defects have a significant effect on families and health care systems. They affect a child’s appearance, speech, teeth, eating, hearing, and ability to develop socially. Although orofacial clefts are usually surgically repaired in the first year of life, many children need additional surgeries, feeding support, and speech therapy. They also require special attention to dental care throughout their lives including routine care, orthodontics, and often, oral surgery and prosthodontics. The complexity of services needs to be provided in a coordinated manner throughout childhood and adolescence as well as into adulthood. This is best provided by an interdisciplinary cleft and craniofacial team comprised of professionals from a variety of health care providers.
The Cleft and Craniofacial Team at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital is an American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) accredited program. Our team provides a specialized, interdisciplinary and family-centered approach to treat patients with craniofacial differences. For more information, please visit stmaryscleftteam.com.