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Cleft Awareness & Prevention Month

When people think of cleft or craniofacial conditions, they often automatically think of cleft

lip or cleft palate. Although these are very common conditions, there are other craniofacial

conditions that Cleft Awareness & Prevention Month aims to make people aware of.

Here are some of the most common conditions to know about as well as how preventative

treatment in Kansas City may be able to help.

Conditions vs. Defects

More people are aware of craniofacial defects because there have been more awareness

campaigns in recent years. These defects are conditions affecting a baby’s head and face

that are present at birth. However, craniofacial conditions are not always present at birth.

Some facial and head conditions occur later in life due to accidents, animal attacks, burns,

or other diseases.

Common Defects

One of the most common craniofacial defects are orofacial clefts, which are cleft lip and cleft

palate. A cleft lip occurs when the upper lip doesn’t form properly, causing a gap in part of

the upper lip. A cleft palate is when the roof of the mouth doesn’t form properly, causing a

gap in the palate. These defects can occur alone or together. Another common defect is

craniosynostosis syndrome. This is when one of more of the skull or face bones permanently

fuse together prematurely causing an abnormal head shape. Less common defects are

microtia, which is when the external portion of the ear forms improperly, and anotia, which

is when the external part of the ear is missing.

Prevention

Craniofacial conditions due to accident or disease (such as tumors) are, of course, difficult

to prevent. Fortunately, there are preventative measures an expectant mother can take to

reduce the chances of her baby being born with craniofacial defects. Smoking increases the

chances of a baby having a cleft lip or cleft palate. It’s important to avoid cigarettes as well

as alcohol and street drugs to reduce this likelihood. Additionally, certain fertility and

thyroid medications can increase chances of defects, so be sure to talk with your health-

care provider about these and any other medications you are taking. Diabetic mothers can

reduce the chances of craniofacial defects by keeping diabetes well controlled throughout

pregnancy. In addition, taking in adequate amounts of folic acid in the diet and with

multivitamins daily can greatly reduce the risk of these defects.

Treatments

Craniofacial conditions affect more than a person’s appearance; they can also make it very

difficult to eat or breathe properly. Fortunately, there are surgical treatments available to

correct these conditions. These reconstructive or plastic surgery procedures restore normal

appearance and function of the face and head to allow proper eating, breathing, and speech

development.

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