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July is national cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month Matthew J. Trovato, MD

July is national cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month

July is national cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month

Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common of all birth defects. The main anatomic problem in a cleft lip is not only the skin deformity but the fact that the muscle of the lip is separated and aligned incorrectly, attaching to the base of the nose instead of forming a complete sphincter.

The anatomy of a cleft palate deformity includes misalignment of the muscles of the soft palate. The Tensor Veli Palatini is a muscle that attaches from the Eustachian tubes to the back of hard palate. Its function is to open the Eustachian tubes to allow drainage of the middle ear. The levator veli palatine is essential to make many sounds in speech. Nearly all patients with a cleft palate have malalignment of these muscles and so fluid collects in the ears. This causes frequent ear infections and problems with hearing development. Speech is also affected.

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