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What Is Hemifacial Microsomia?

Many conditions in the body can be traced back to genetic development. One of these conditions is hemifacial microsomia, which results in abnormal growth of the face, ears, nose and throat. This condition is also known as lateral facial dysplasia, otomandibular dysostosis, first and second branchial arch syndrome or oral-mandibular-auricular syndrome.

The Face of Lateral Facial Dysplasia

Hemifacial microsomia affects the hard and soft tissues of the head and neck. The lower half of the face does not fully develop or grows at an atypical rate. This may occur on one side or both sides of the face, according to Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. According to the National Craniofacial Association (FACES), a child with the condition may have an unusual ear and mandible (lower jaw) shape, skin tags near the ears or weakness in the affected facial muscles.

FACES reports that the hallmarks of lateral facial dysplasia form from a blood supply problem in the first six to eight weeks of fetal development. Since the condition is genetic, it is not affected by a pregnant person's habits or actions. It is the most common facial birth defect after cleft palate.

How Common Is the Condition?

The International Craniofacial Institute states this condition occurs in one child per 3,500 to 4,500 born globally. Hemifacial microsomia is congenital, meaning it usually starts at birth or soon after a child is born. In the beginning, the lower jaw appears smaller than normal. The difference in size becomes more drastic as a child grows into adolescence and adulthood.

The underdevelopment of the mandible may result in problems that affect the jaws, the teeth and the inner and outer ear. In a variation of lateral facial dysplasia called Goldenhar syndrome, patients experience all the symptoms of hemifacial microsomia with added complications like scoliosis and central nervous system issues, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Goldenhar syndrome occurs once in every 3,000 to 5,000 births.


Extensive treatment for hemifacial microsomia is often recommended and may include surgeries like bone and skin grafting and orthodontics to correct tooth and jaw positions. Children with impaired hearing may also benefit from therapies like cochlear implants or hearing aids. These treatments must be carefully timed to coincide with the patient's normal growth and development.

Movement and surgical treatments of bones, teeth and soft tissues will often involve coordination of care between dental professionals, doctors and plastic surgeons. A counselor may also be brought in to help patients who experience psychological and social problems from coping with their abnormal growth.

If your child or someone you know is affected by hemifacial microsomia, they are not alone. A team of experienced and caring medical professionals can help your child on the path to healthy growth.

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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