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What is Hemifacial Microsomia?

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Hemifacial microsomia is diagnosed at birth. It is a common facial birth defect where one side of the face is notably different from the other. It can be mild to severe. Hemifacial microsomia is treatable but it will take time.

The Face of Lateral Facial Dysplasia

Hemifacial microsomia, also called Goldenhar syndrome and oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum, is a genetic condition that produces abnormal head growth. It causes noticeable asymmetry of facial features. The eyes, jaws, ears, and soft tissues of the face are all affected. Some cases are more severe than others. The condition does not change after birth. The areas affected by hemifacial microsomia when your child was born will not worsen, but they can get better with treatment.

How Common Is the Condition?

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, hemifacial microsomia is the second most common facial congenital disability (following cleft palate). It affects one in every 3,500 to 4,000 births. It is genetic and starts in utero. The lower jaw appears smaller than normal. As your child grows into adolescence and adulthood, the size difference becomes more apparent because other features are growing, the ones affected are not. The underdevelopment of the mandible often results in problems with the jaw, the teeth, and outer ear.


Multiple surgeries that include bone and skin grafting and orthodontics are often required to correct hemifacial microsomia teeth and jaw positions. Dental professionals, doctors, and plastic surgeons work together on these procedures. A counselor or therapist may also be a part of the team to help your child cope with social and psychological issues that can come with abnormal growth. If hemifacial microsomia affects your child’s speech or hearing, a speech therapist and audiologist may also be helping your child.

The birth of a child is a wonderful moment. Finding out there’s something is wrong is heartwrenching. If your child is born with hemifacial microsomia, there are two things you should know. One, it’s caused by a vascular problem during the first trimester. There’s nothing you did or could do to change the outcome. Two, there are treatment options and a team of people who will help you and your child have the best possible outcome.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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