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5 Things Parents Should Know About Craniofacial Disorders

Posted on Jul 25, 2023

Medically Reviewed by: Adam E. Ammar, MD
Pediatric Neurological Surgery
Reviewed on: October 24, 2023

July marks National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month, and with thousands of babies being born with a cleft every year in America, it’s important for families to recognize and learn about the different types of craniofacial disorders.

As a parent, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of your child. That’s why understanding various medical conditions, including craniofacial disorders, is essential. This blog post will discuss five crucial things parents should know about these conditions and how a pediatric craniofacial specialist can help.

Understanding the Predominant Types of Craniofacial Disorders

Craniofacial disorders involve deformities in the growth of the head and facial bones. The most common types include cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the skull bones), and hemifacial microsomia (underdevelopment of one side of the face). Each of these disorders presents unique challenges and require different treatments. Knowledge of these types can help you recognize and seek help for these disorders in your child.

Identifying the Causes or Origins of Craniofacial Disorders

Craniofacial disorders can be due to a range of causes. Some are genetic, passed down from parents to their children, while others result from environmental factors during pregnancy, such as the use of certain medications or exposure to harmful substances. Understanding these causes helps you as a parent to manage potential risks and take necessary precautions during pregnancy.

Detecting Craniofacial Syndromes in a Baby’s Early Life

Craniofacial disorders can often be identified even before birth through prenatal screenings. However, some may not become apparent until after birth during routine examinations. Early detection is key in managing these disorders, as it allows for prompt intervention and better long-term outcomes. Therefore, maintaining regular prenatal and infant check-ups is crucial.

Recognizing the Common Indicators of Craniofacial Disorders

Recognizing craniofacial disorders early on greatly assists in management and treatment. Common indicators include apparent facial deformities, difficulty feeding, or breathing, or developmental delays. If you notice any such signs, it’s important to seek advice from a pediatric craniofacial specialist immediately.

Some signs are clearly visible, such as:

  • Abnormally shaped ears (microtia)
  • A gap in the contours of the lip and nose (cleft lip)
  • A gap inside the roof of the mouth (cleft palate)
  • Pigmented growths on the skin (vascular and cutaneous anomalies)
  • Severely small jaw or jawbone (micrognathia)

Some signs are more subtle, including:

  • Differently shaped heads (positional plagiocephaly or craniosynostosis)
  • Minor facial asymmetries (minor clefts, subtle hemifacial microsomia, and many others)

Developmental Differences in Babies with Craniofacial Conditions

Babies with craniofacial conditions may follow a different developmental trajectory than their peers. These differences could be physical, such as growth and development, or cognitive, like speech and learning abilities. It’s important to remember that each child is unique, and with the right care, they can reach their full potential.

However, for isolated symptoms and conditions, most children will develop normally and on track. At NJ Craniofacial Center for Children, our team includes nationally recognized neuropsychologists who can help provide in-depth evaluations and resources, if your child has identified developmental needs. 

Navigating Care and Treatment Options

Craniofacial disorders are treatable. The treatment depends on the type and severity of the disorder and could range from surgery to speech therapy, physical therapy, or dental care. Consulting with a pediatric craniofacial specialist will help you understand your child’s condition and explore the most suitable treatment options.

According to Dr. Cathreine A. Mazolla, “NJ Craniofacial Center is also actively engaged in research so that we can all contribute to improving your child’s outcomes, and for the benefit of future generations of children with craniofacial disorders.”

We are committed to providing all the clinical guidance and support possible in our team, however, we fully recognize and appreciate that it takes a village to raise a child, especially with the stress of possible surgery.

During your consultation, you’ll discuss the appropriate national organizations that help provide additional resources and support to help you make the best decision for you and your families. 

Finding the Right Care

A pediatric craniofacial specialist is crucial in the care of children with craniofacial disorders. These specialists have extensive training in diagnosing and treating these conditions. They work in a multidisciplinary team including surgeons, speech therapists, psychologists, and other health professionals, to provide comprehensive care tailored to your child’s needs.

In conclusion, while a diagnosis of a craniofacial disorder can be overwhelming, knowing these critical points can help you navigate this journey. Remember, with the right care and support, children with craniofacial disorders can lead healthy, fulfilling lives.


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