Cleft lip is a birth defect that occurs when the baby's lip or mouth does not form properly. During the 4th and 7th week of pregnancy several elements of the developing baby's face need to fuse to complete the formation of the face. When this fails to occur a cleft is the result.
The causes of cleft lips are mostly unknown. Some babies form cleft lips because of changes in their genes. Environmental factors may have a causal role in cleft development as well.
7-11 Peruvian babies per 10000 births are born with cleft lips with or without cleft palates. In the United States that rate is 2.2-11 per 10000 births.
A short surgery fixes the cleft and restores the lip for a lifetime of smiles.
The roof of the mouth is called the palate. Cleft palate is a birth defect where the roof of the mouth fails to fuse together during development. In some babies the front (hard) or back (soft) part of the palate fails to fuse. Cleft palate can occur with or without cleft lip. A cleft palate can lead to eating difficulty, hearing problems (eustachian tube dysfunction), dental problems and speech problems.
Without repair food will move freely from mouth to nose. Cleft of the hard palate can have adverse affects on normal dental development as well.
Repair of cleft palate restores the separation of air passage of the nose and mouth. This has implications in speech and hearing development.
Cleft Dental Services
Cleft lip and palate repair is done best with the team approach. Dental services are key to the success of cleft repairs. Despite surgical repairs of the cleft lips and palates dental restoration is still needed. This can be as simple as a single tooth denture to the need for an obturator (plug) to stop the flow of liquids from the mouth to nasal cavity should a fistula (small opening) occur.
Programa San Francisco de Asis has dedicated volunteer dentists and prosthodontists who really complete the smile of the needy children of Peru.
Medical & Social Services
Every child who is seen in Lima or Arequipa also is assessed by other professional services. These children are often seen year after year.
Social Services- to connect babies and families to resources for health care once back home (many children travel days from the mountains to reach Lima and Arequipa)
Pediatricians- For many babies this is the first time they have been seen by a doctor. It is important to be sure there are no other medical issues with a simple health screening. Some children are malnourished, or have low hemoglobin or may have more severe developmental delays that need to be recognized and managed.