Charlotte’s Only ACPA-Approved Team
Cleft Lip & Palate is a birth condition that affects nearly 1 in 700 children born in the United States of America each year. The condition is caused by issues related to genetic changes that occur during the development of the child early on in pregnancy. While the severity of the condition may vary, all children born with this condition are automatically faced with challenges ranging from feeding and speech to dental and facial development.
Carolinas Center for Cleft Lip & Palate Surgery is an ACPA approved cleft lip and palate team. In conjunction with our consultants and providers, we have founded the Cleft Lip & Palate Team to provide our patients and families with the best quality and most complete cleft lip and palate care.
Our specialized team consists of our own oral and maxillofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, speech pathologists, pediatric dentists, and orthodontists & more. Our team has been treating the complex functional and cosmetic aspects associated with cleft lip and palate for nearly twenty (20) years, with a priority of providing the highest level of care possible to allow your child’s smile to shine.
The Cleft Out Foundation
The Cleft Out Foundation was created to help families bear the on-going financial cost for children born with cleft lip and/or palate, and aims to provide the resources to truly “Close the Gap” by providing the funding needed to complete their care.
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Cleft lip is a defect of normal continuity of the upper lip and jaw and can be complete or incomplete depending on severity and structures involved. In addition to the obvious external deformity, a multitude of functional problems exist including difficulty feeding, communication between the mouth and nose, and normal speech development.
A cleft palate involves a separation in the roof of the mouth. The defect may encompass both the hard (bone) and soft palate. The mobile soft palate is responsible for controlling airflow in the formation of speech. The escape of air through the palatal incompetence creates a nasal sound.
The cause of cleft lip and palate is generally regarded as multifactorial with both genetic and environmental influence. An increased chance of clefting exists in a newborn if a sibling, parent or relative has a cleft (2% to 5% with one affected family member verses 0.14% normally). Environmental factors are associated with influences on the fetus during pregnancy including medications, alcohol and tobacco. Cleft lip with or without cleft palate can be isolated or associated with other congential abnormalities.
The incidence of cleft lip is approximately 1 in 1000 births. The incidence varies according to race with American Indians the highest of any known group and the black population possessing the lowest rate. Cleft palate occurs in roughly 1 in 2000 births and females are affected twice as often as males. In contrast, cleft lip occurs more frequently in males and is most often isolated on the left side. The incidence of clefting is increased from falling birth mortality, increasing maternal age, increasing therapeutic drug consumption and increasing associated abnormalities.
Neonatal care focuses on parental counseling and nursing education as the absence of suckling makes feeding challenging. Hearing is also closely monitored as most children affected with cleft lip and palate have inner ear abnormalities.
Surgery is required at multiple stages for repair of the cleft lip and/or palate. The timing of surgical intervention is based on balancing growth and function. Early surgery can create scarring and slow growth. The ideal is to delay surgery to allow for normal growth until function is necessary.
Closure of the lip (cheilorrhaphy) is generally completed at 3 months of age. The goal is to restore continuity of the upper lip skin and muscle for function. The development of speech dictates the surgical repair of the cleft palate typically at 16 to 24 months of age. Additional surgery may be required on the roof of the mouth to help improve the mobility of the soft palate during speech and limit the escape of air into the nose creating nasal speech (staphylorrhaphy). Restoring the continuity of the tooth bearing upper jaw is accomplished at 8 to 11 years. The timing is based on the development and eruption of permanent teeth adjacent to the cleft. Teeth typically found in this region of the jaw are often absent in clefts. Closure of the commnication between the mouth and nose is also an important goal in correction of the bony cleft. Orthodontic guidance is used throughout the transitioning into the permanent teeth to aid in the orientation.
Multiple surgeries involving the lip, roof of the mouth and jaw restricts growth of the upper jaw creating deficiency in the midface. Surgery to advance the upper jaw is completed in the teenage years to correct the bite (see orthognathic surgery). Additional surgical revisions may be required on the lip, nose, etc. to finalize cosmetics and function.
Meet Charlotte’s Cleft Lip & Palate Surgeon Team
Dr. Rick Kapitan, DDS, MS, FACS
The Cleft Lip & Palate surgical team is led by Dr. Kapitan.
Dr. Rick Kapitan has been active in Cleft Lip & Palate management since 2000. Originally a member of the Cleft Lip & Palate Team at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida and part time faculty at the Univ. of Florida, Dr. Kapitan transitioned his practice to Charlotte in 2011. He is now a Co-Founder and Director of the Carolinas Center for Cleft Lip & Palate Surgery, the only ACPA accredited multi-disciplinary cleft team in the region. Additionally, he is adjunct faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. He is also a regular attendee at the UNC Craniofacial Clinic Center.
In his spare time, Dr. Kapitan devotes 4 weeks a year as a volunteer medical missionary performing free cleft lip and palate surgery to impoverished children in Central America, South America and Africa through the Free to Smile Foundation, a non-profit corporation. As a Surgical Team Leader, and member of the Board of Directors of the Free To Smile Foundation, Dr. Kapitan channels his passion for the care of children with Cleft Lip & Palate deformities into international outreach and training of other cleft surgeons.
Dr. Daniel R. Cook, DDS, MD
Like his colleagues, Dr. Cook’s credentials are impressive. Dr. Cook is a second generation dental medical professional, he has bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Baylor University and a doctor of dental surgery from Baylor College of Dentistry. He also earned his doctor of medicine from Louisiana State University Health Science Center at New Orleans School of Medicine, and stayed on there for his Oral and Maxillofacial residency.
Dr. Cook is an extremely valuable asset to our practice and enjoys the full scope of oral & maxillofacial surgery with special emphasis on dental implants and sleep apnea. Dr. Cook has also traveled extensively on medical missions to Nicaragua and India, serving patients without access to surgery for debilitating deformities such as extensive craniofacial cleft lips and palates.
- Clinical Coordinator – Mikki Weaver
- Surgery Coordinator – Nikki McCullough, CDA
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- Pediatric Dentistry – Jason Sperati, DDS
- Orthodontics – Meredith Quimby, DDS, MS
- Orthodontics – Kelly Collins, DDS, MS
- Prosthodontics – Mollie Griswold, DDS
- Speech Therapy – Leslie Giambrone M.Ed., CCC/SLP
- Speech Therapy – Erin Hays-Stephens, MS, CCC/SLP
- ENT/Audiology – Melissa Horning, Au.D
- Genetics – Ed Spence, MD
- Feeding/Swallowing Therapist – Natasha McNeill, MCD, CFY-SLP
- Pediatrics/Primary Care – Novant Health Child and Adolescent Medicine
- Psychology – George Popper, PhD
- Psychology – Carolyn Vanderhall, MS, LPCS
- Psychology – Steven Sutherland, MD