Appearing as a notch, groove or scar over the lip, microform cleft is often the least noticeable cleft lip condition and, as a result, the least serious. A cleft can appear on one or both sides of the lip, and sometimes extends to the nose. When the cleft is microform, it doesn't produce a gap, though it does affect the tissue.
Types of Clefts
Cleft lip falls under one of three separate conditions: unilateral, bilateral or microform. And in all three, there is usually tissue missing rather than misplaced. Unilateral cleft lip denotes a cleft on one side of the upper lip, whereas bilateral cleft lip is present on both sides. Microform cleft lip can be unilateral or bilateral, affecting the skin surface on one or both sides of the lip, but Dr. Cynthia Koudela confirms the condition can also affect the tissue that lies underneath. Other effects include altered lip height and deformation of the nose, according to Facial Plastic Surgery.
What Causes It
When doctors diagnose cleft lip, a natural first reaction for parents is to wonder what caused it. But even with a thorough exam, the cause is often unknown. Three structures fuse to create the nose, mouth, palate and other facial features during early pregnancy. If this fusion is incomplete, the baby is born with a cleft. Oregon Health and Science University highlights genetics and environmental factors such as smoking, anti-epileptic drugs, poor nutrition and retinoids as possible contributors, but cleft lip is still a seemingly random event.
How It Happens
Microform cleft lip is a much less common condition, mostly occurring in boys on the left side of the lip. In a microform case study, the Malta Medical Journal stated that the prominence of unilateral microform cleft lip is a mere 0.06 of every 10,000 live births. The bilateral type is even rarer. But because this low occurrence rate may be due to the minimal effect on the facial appearance, many cases can go unreported.
Cleft lip is sometimes linked with conditions affecting the heart, skeleton and central nervous system, of which microform cleft also carries a certain level of risk. Nonetheless, there may be no other effects whatsoever. Babies born with the microform type of cleft should be thoroughly examined to find out whether there are more serious conditions involved.
Surgery can help fix the defect, but it may need no treatment at all. Surgeons regularly weigh the benefit of an operation against the risk that a surgery scar may be worse than the appearance of the cleft itself. According to Modern Plastic Surgery, in some cases, it's possible for the doctor to operate from within the mouth to minimize this scarring effect.
Luckily, the condition is rarely a cause for concern, and oral care should be practiced the same as it is for other infants. As soon as the teeth emerge, brushing them twice a day with Colgate® My First® Toothbrush – or another small, soft-bristled brush with child-friendly toothpaste – will help keep them clean and healthy.