Cleft Lip and Palate

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.

Area Accommodations

We have put together a sample list of hotels & motels in the area, should you be traveling for your visit with us (Opens in new tab).


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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Researching Cleft Lip & Palate? Start Here.

What Is Cleft Lip?

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.

What Is A Cleft Palate?

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.

What Are The Causes?

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.

What Is The Incidence Rate?

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.

What Is The Plan For Neonatal Care?

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.

What Are The Surgical Options?

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.

What Are The Stages Of Surgery?

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.

Where Can I Get More Info?

We encourage you to visit the ACPCA to help in your research: American Cleft Palate – Craniofacial Association

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 is a Board Certified Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. 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 the Founder and Director of the Carolinas Center for Cleft Lip & Craniofacial Surgery, the only ACPA accredited multi-disciplinary cleft team in the region. Additionally, he has established and leads cleft & craniofacial teams in Asheville, NC and in Greenville, SC.  He serves as the Chairman of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at Novant Medical Center, and is adjunct faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, as well as Louisiana State University’s Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

MyCenters Cleft Lip & Palate Surgeons is proud to partner with the Free To Smile FoundationIn his spare time, Dr. Kapitan devotes multiple weeks a year as a volunteer medical missionary providing 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. He is also the founder of the Cleft Out Foundation, a non-profit based in Charlotte, NC that raises money for distribution to area families affected by cleft and Craniofacial anomalies in the form of medical grants to help offset the out of pocket costs of their child’s care.

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.


Each of our surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Richard A. Kapitan, DDS, MS, FACS
Daniel R. Cook, DDS, MD

Clinical Coordinator

Mikki Weaver
p: 704-716-9840 ext: 582

Surgery Coordinator

Nikki McCullough, CDA
p: 704-716-9840 ext: 501

Contact us to have a new patient packet sent to you.

Cleft and Craniofacial Surgery

Dr. Rick Kapitan DDS, MS, FACS – Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (Clinic Director)
Dr. Daniel Cook DDS, MD – Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Dr. Waheed Mohamed DDS, MD – Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Cosmetic Surgery
Dr. Erin Kiehna MD – Pediatric Neurological Surgery

Speech Language Pathologist – Feeding Specialist

Erin Hays-Stephens M.S., CCC-SLP

Leslie Giambrone CCC-SLP

Charlotte/South Carolina
Natasha McNeil MCD CCC-SLP


Dr. Meredith L. Quimby, DDS, MS
Dr. Kelly A. Collins, DMD, MS

Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. Arpita Patel DMD 


Lake Wylie/South Charlotte
Dr. Ryan Colosi, DDS