Image is from nccapm.org
This entire month is national cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month. July is a time to draw awareness, funding and support for the hundreds of infants and teens afflicted with congenital issues like cleft lip and cleft palates.
Many adults likewise suffer from cleft and craniofacial disorders through sometimes life-threatening conditions of the craniofacial region as well as trauma. A car accident, for example, could leave an individual suffering from a cleft palate, otherwise known as an opening in the mouth and lip.
These kinds of issues can erode the self-esteem of children and adolescents and cause significant developmental issues. Cleft and lip palates have been associated with breathing issues as well as some problems with language development and proper speech.
Appreciating the Differences and Encouraging Support
Some craniofacial defects are caused by abnormalities during gestational development. These kinds of defects break down into two broad categories – orofacial clefts and craniosynostosis.
The former – orofacial clefts – is characterized by the mouth and lip not forming as they should whereas the latter occurs when a young baby’s bones meld together too early for proper development to take hold.
In terms of craniofacial issues beyond cleft lip and cleft palates, national cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month is about drawing attention and funding towards issues like anotia (where the external part of the ear is absent) and microtia (characterized by a deformation in the external portion of someone’s ear).
- Early Treatment is Highly Beneficial
Although treatments can vary somewhat depending on the age and health of the child, as well as the medical severity of the issue and lifestyle impairments (e.g., breathing issues), appreciating the pain and struggle that these disorders can cause is important.
Just cleft lip and cleft palate issues account for over 4,000 new cases of craniofacial issues in infants every single year. Cleft palates account for over 2,700 new cases annually, and that number is only growing.
Many of these issues are completely treatable and incredible charities like Smile Train and put in place so that everyday people can make a small contribution that can literally change lives.
If possible, these issues should really be treated early since doing so can mitigate some of the detrimental effects of living with congenital or acquired craniofacial issues. These can include physical, developmental, and learning issues that can be severely reduced or eliminated entirely with the help of craniofacial surgeons and improvements in technology.
Many children afflicted with craniofacial issues like cleft lip and cleft palate are, tragically, teased for having the condition. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that children suffering for these conditions can face health and social problems.
On the health front, issues can range from an increased rate of dental issues and hearing problems (including ear infections) whereas social problems among children with craniofacial and cleft issues can range from issues pronouncing certain consonants in their everyday speech to school problems.
Researchers have long noted that children with cleft lip and cleft palate face an erosion of self-esteem in more severe cases and long gaps missed during the school year because of one or more surgeries to address the condition.
How Everyone Can Help: Treatment and Research Funding
There are a number of steps that you can take online, in your community, and through donations to chip away at the negative hold that these craniofacial and cleft disorders can have over too many children.
Asking your local city council or local house representative to include funding for research or simply making a small donation to ACPA can make a huge difference in a child’s life.