Facial Clefting Can Be Treated
Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month
Established in July of 2015, National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month raises awareness regarding facial clefting – cleft of the lip, palate, oral cavity and orbit – and developmental disorders associated with the face, head, and neck (craniofacial) regions. We would like to take this opportunity to bring thought and awareness to our community and greater Shreveport- Bossier metropolitan area regarding these and other related conditions.
Cleft of the lip and palate is a condition where the segments of the lip, nose or roof of the mouth fail to fuse during development of the baby in early pregnancy. Being born with this condition can lead to difficulty with feeding, hearing, speaking and putting the child at a higher risk of having ear infections, problems with the eruption of teeth and development of the facial skeleton.
Although rare, clefting can affect other facial structures such as the mouth, nose, eye socket, cheek and lower jaw. “Craniofacial anomaly” is a very broad term, which includes numerous disorders and spans many syndromes. These are birth defects that affect the skeleton and the soft tissues of the face, head and neck, including craniosynostosis, where the bones of the skull prematurely fuse, and could possibly prevent the brain from growing or cause abnormal shape of the head or facial skeleton. Other examples of craniofacial anomalies include babies with missing, small or malformed ears, eyes, nose, tongue, jaws, cheekbones, skull bones or breathing apparatus.
Each year thousands of babies are born with cleft and craniofacial associated anomalies and syndromes, accounting for one in 600 births in the U.S. Although the causes of orofacial clefts are not always known, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and epilepsy (seizures), and smoking cessation are known to reduce a family’s risk of having a child with cleft or craniofacial conditions. Advances in medical technology help identify many such conditions before birth, which allow for better education of anticipating parents, and more thorough planning for delivery and multidisciplinary treatment.
Some children require lifelong treatment to manage their condition, while most require coordination, evaluation and treatment from a multidisciplinary team. This team of qualified practitioners includes multiple medical, surgical, dental and allied health subspecialties to help the patient and family cope with these conditions.
LSU Health Shreveport is committed to treating cleft and craniofacial anomalies and associated conditions. We would like to encourage the local medical, dental and allied health community to support the cause and help prevent this condition through increased awareness and streamlined management of care via a multidisciplinary team approach. With these focused efforts we can reduce the stigma associated with these disorders.
Our community can help in spreading awareness regarding cleft and craniofacial associated disorders by participating in and supporting our regional multidisciplinary cleft and craniofacial teams and volunteering in locally and regionally organized support and awareness activities such as Cleft Camp and 3 Miles for Smiles. National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month helps us bring awareness to the challenges faced by these children and their families, educate the local public and provide a venue for participation in hopes to celebrate these children and build a stronger community and future.
Stavan Patel, DDS, MD, is the assistant professor and residency program director at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at LSU Health Shreveport. Anil Gungor, MD, is the professor of otolaryngology/ head & neck surgery and pediatrics, director of pediatric otolaryngology, and director of Louisiana Cleft Team at LSU Health Shreveport.