What You Should Know About Orofacial Cleft


Orofacial cleft is an opening that a child is born with. The opening occur mainly on the upper lip (cleft lip) and the roof of the mouth (palate).

This opening result from distortion in the development of the baby in the first three Months.

Cleft lip and palate are among the most common birth defects and they mostly occur as isolated birth defects.

A consultant mouth orofacial surgeon, Dr Seidu Bello, said medical abnormality usually occur within the first three months of pregnancy, adding that the major cause of orofacial cleft is unknown.

He, however, said that there are predisposing factors which are either genetic or environmental.

The environmental factors, according to him, cannot be said to be the real cause but they are related to X-ray, while cautioning that  “If  pregnant women will have to do X-ray, they will have to be protected because X-radiation have been known to cause distortion during development of the fetus.”

Bello, who is also the executive director, Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation, Abuja, said “Also few things like drugs, mothers that are epileptic and are taking anticonvulsant drugs have been known to also be a possible cause of cleft.

“Most of the cases we have seen actually are what can be described as isolated. For instance, you don’t see mothers drinking alcohol, no exposure to radiation and still they have cleft children.  As a matter of fact,  in a paper that was published last year by my organisation,  in which we reviewed 683 cases of cleft,  we found out that  6.5 per cent have some degree of family relation which means it has some genetic possibilities whereas the rest  which is 93 per cent are just isolated. you don’t have any specific cause that you can relate to them.


On prevention, he said how do you prevent what you don’t know, saying since the cause is not known, it is difficult to talk about specific prevention, except for pregnant women to be protected during X-ray.

The consultant advised against use of drugs during pregnancy while also urging pregnant women to go for antenatal during pregnancy so that they can be advised  on what drugs to take.


On treatment, Bello said the defect is an opening, so the major treatment is surgery. However, he said there is comprehensive care which is the ideal way of managing a cleft patient.

According to him, “Orofacial cleft is just a birth defect like every other defects like hole in the heart. We have adequate care and it is done well in Nigeria.

Bello worried that in so many communities, there are so many myths around cleft while urging parents to take their cleft children for treatment.

“Pleas  lets bring these children out for treatment and let’s stop ascribing witchcraft and others to it. Prayer houses or use of local herbs is not the solution,” he cautioned.


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