Cleft Palate

A cleft palate is a birth defect which involves a gap in the roof of the mouth. It can involve the hard palate in the rear of the mouth, the soft palate in the front of the mouth, or both. A cleft palate can cause the development of several other health conditions, but fortunately there are excellent treatment options which can usually correct the defect.

What is a Cleft Palate?

A cleft palate is caused early in the development of the fetus, about 5-7 weeks after conception. It occurs when the structures that fuse together to form the roof of the mouth don’t close completely, leaving a gap. It is often also associated with a cleft lip, which is a gap that runs from the upper lip to the nose. Treatment options for both will involve surgeries to close the gaps.

Causes of Cleft Palate

There are many factors known to contribute to the development of a cleft palate, but not all are completely understood. Genetics and environmental factors such as maternal smoking, alcohol use, infections, or a deficiency in folic acid are thought to be common causes. Certain medications, if taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, can also lead to the development of cleft palate. One known medication is Topamax®, a drug used to treat patients with epilepsy.

Complications and Treatment

Cleft palates can lead to the development of several other problems, including:

  • Feeding problems, the gap in the roof of the mouth causes suction problems
  • Hearing loss, infants with cleft palate are prone to ear infections that can lead to hearing loss
  • Speech problems, patients can be difficult to understand
  • Dental problems, children with oral clefts have an increased risk of cavities and dental problems

Treatment options for a cleft palate will vary depending on the severity of the cleft, but will usually involve at least one surgery. In some cases the treatment options include the pre-surgical insertion of a device into the mouth which will temporarily close the gap. This device will help create suction and adds protection from the development of ear infections.

The first surgery to repair the separation will likely be performed when the baby is between 6 and 12 months old. Multiple surgeries may be required to completely repair the problem. About 20 percent of patients will require surgery to improve speech. Some will also require a bone graft when they are 8 years old to stabilize the upper jaw and help fill in the upper gum line.

Contact a Cleft Palate Attorney

If your child is born with cleft palate and you took Topamax® during the early months of your pregnancy, you should consider speaking with an attorney. A qualified Topamax® cleft palate attorney can help you seek financial compensation to help cover the medical and treatment costs as well as the pain and suffering you and your family has endured.