Cleft lip and palate are congenital facial deformities are easily repaired. Specifically, cleft lip deformities occur when the muscle and skin of the upper lip do not fuse together properly. Cleft palate deformities occur when the bones and muscle that make up the roof of the mouth do not fuse appropriately. Both deformities create a functional problem, affecting ones’ ability to eat and develop proper speech. Further, cleft lip deformities have an associated social stigma, due to its facial disfigurement. In traditional cultures such as Bangladesh, children with clefts are often ostracized by their community, resulting in social isolation from the rest of Bengali society. Mothers of these children are often blamed as there is a belief the cleft lips occur when pregnant women cut vegetables and fish during an eclipse.
Babies born with cleft deformities typically require care thru their early twenties – adjunctive procedures, such as speech therapy, orthodontics, orthognathic surgery, dental implants, and rhinoplasty are all performed on cleft patients as they develop. Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, a comprehensive care system for cleft patients does not exist. It is a future goal of Smile Bangladesh to develop a multidisciplinary cleft center within the country to perform these secondary procedures.