Receding chin or recessed jaw: what causes it and how can it be fixed?

12 January · 7 minutes

Perhaps you’ve seen someone with a recessed jaw and not known what it was. The truth is, those who suffer from weak chins and jawlines experience more than just a change in their physical appearance. In this article, we’ll take a look at all the side effects and consequences of having a receding chin, and some of the most common treatment options.

Additionally, we’ll cover the similarities and differences between a recessed chin and class 2 malocclusion, or overbite.

What is mandibular retrognathia and how does it relate to weak chin?

Mandibular retrognathia, also known as recessed jaw, is a dentofacial bone deformity in which the mandibular bone has not developed properly and causes the upper jaw to be located in front of the lower jaw.

Sometimes, in moderate or severe cases of recessed chin, it‚Äôs visible just how far forward the teeth in the upper jaw extend over those in the recessed lower jaw. This can cause problems with pronunciation, chewing and swallowing, as well as aesthetically, the chin appears ‚Äúweak.‚ÄĚ It‚Äôs important to clarify that the weak chin you see is a direct consequence of having a retrognathic mandible.

Girl sitting in the dentist chair covering her smile

What causes a receding chin or a retrognathic mandible?

The causes of receding chin can typically be grouped into two main categories: genetic predisposition or certain childhood habits. These habits can include finger sucking or chronic mouth breathing, which can have an adverse effect on the development of the jaw and chin area. Poor respiratory function and certain allergies are two further possible factors that could contribute to a recessed chin.

In order to determine an effective treatment plan for treating a recessed jaw, proper diagnosis is key. This means looking at family dental history as well as lifestyle habits that may be impacting the condition.

Consequences of mandibular retrognathia

Having a retrognathic mandible can lead to a number of consequences, the most obvious being the visible alterations in the way the face appears. When the lower mandible, or jaw, is recessed, it creates what is commonly referred to as a weak chin or jawline. It can also be described as when the lower third of the face looks more sunken and out of proportion to the rest of the face.

And although the abnormalities in the person’s aesthetic can be damaging to their self-esteem, there are other consequences of a receding chin that can be damaging to other aspects of their lives, like:

  • Suffering from sleep apnea due to airway obstruction
  • Having speech problems
  • Experiencing difficulty swallowing, which may trigger dysphagia
  • Causing bruxism
  • Triggering Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Developing teeth problems, such as crowding, diastema, high canines or uneven wear on the teeth
  • Causing class 2 malocclusion, or overbite, which we will discuss in the next section.

The link between a weak chin and overbite

People tend to use the terms ‚Äúweak chin‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúoverbite‚ÄĚ interchangeably, but the truth is, they‚Äôre actually two different conditions.

While they are related, the difference between a weak chin and an overbite really comes down to the origin. A weak chin originates in the bones, whereas the overbite in the teeth. They have a cause and effect relationship: an overbite is usually the result of a recessed mandible problem.

Professional holding a dental mold of a recessed jaw with class 2 malocclusion

What is an overbite?

There are different types of malocclusions, but a class 2 malocclusion, or overbite, is a common type associated with receding chins. Wondering what an overbite is? It’s when the upper first molars are positioned further forward than the lower first molars. People with class 2 malocclusion often have visible gaps between the teeth in their upper and lower jaw. This type of misalignment can lead to various problems, including difficulty eating and speaking properly, or grinding the teeth.

Types of overbites

Within the class 2 malocclusions, there are two types of overbites: class 2 division 1 and class 2 division 2. Which type of overbite you have depends on the position of your incisors, let’s take a look.

Class 2 division 1 malocclusion

Those that suffer from a class 2 division 1 malocclusion have upper central incisors that are inclined toward the outside of the mouth, completely covering the teeth in the lower arch. Usually, people with a class 2 division 1 malocclusion may also experience dental crowding and excessive wear of their incisors.

Class 2 division 2 malocclusion

In cases of class 2 division 2 malocclusion, the central incisors are inclined towards the inside of the mouth, which tends to go hand in hand with a deep bite and respiratory problems in many cases.

How to fix a receding chin

How exactly to fix a weak chin will depend on both the age of the patient and the level of severity of the condition. The patient should visit an orthodontist and a maxillofacial surgeon to have an assessment performed. With the necessary tests and X-rays, the professionals will be able to determine which treatment option is best to fix the receding chin.

Recessed chin treatment for adults

Treating a recessed mandible or chin, gets more difficult over time, meaning it’s the most complicated for adults. Most cases will require surgery to solve the issue.

Weak chin surgery

For adults, the only treatment option for a weak chin is to perform surgery on the recessed jaw. Since in adulthood, the bone development is complete and cannot be altered with orthodontics, surgery becomes the only viable option.

Let’s take a look at which recessed jaw surgeries are available to treat this condition in adults.

A specialist explains recessed jaw to a patient using a dental mold

Orthognathic surgery

The role of class 2 orthognathic surgery is to correct the size and position of the upper and lower jaw. This correction aims to restore facial harmony and recover bone function. There are two classes orthognathic surgery of depending on the bones to be operated on, they are:

  • Bimaxillary orthognathic surgery: the surgeon operates on the lower and upper jaw.
  • Monomaxillary orthognathic surgery: the surgeon only operates on one of the jaws. In cases of a retrognathic mandible, class 2 monomaxillary orthognathic surgery works to advance the recessed lower jaw.

It’s not uncommon that class 2 orthognathic surgery will also require orthodontic treatment to resolve the issue correctly and complete the process.

Mentoplasty or chin augmentation

It’s possible to improve chin projection and lower lip aesthetics with mentoplasty which modifies the chin bone.

Chin augmentation can also be used as a complementary procedure to orthognathic surgery to achieve greater facial balance. It’s typically used in cases where the chin is recessed but the occlusion or bite is good.

How to fix a receding chin without surgery

As previously mentioned surgery is the only option for adults looking to fix mandibular retrognathia, but there are cases of overbite that can be fixed with orthodontics.

We want to clarify again, that orthodontic treatment as a solution to correct overbite, is not a way to fix a receding chin without surgery, but instead to complement it. Orthognathic surgery is required to solve a recessed lower jaw.

Recessed chin filler

One of the treatment options for a recessed chin is filler, although it should be noted that this option is purely for aesthetic purposes. The procedure involves injecting hyaluronic acid into the chin area to improve the appearance, but it does not solve facial bone abnormalities.

Can braces or other orthodontics treat a receding chin?

Unfortunately, braces cannot fix a receding chin, and neither can any other type of orthodontic treatment. Having a weak jawline means having an issue with the bones, which is something orthodontics can’t resolve. The only effective use of braces or orthodontic treatment in adults with receding chin, is to treat their overbite.

As we’ve mentioned before, orthodontics can only treat conditions pertaining to teeth. So, orthodontics can be used alongside orthognathic surgery to correct dental irregularities caused by a recessed jaw.

There are also mandibular advancement splints, which can advance the position of the patient's jaw by a few millimeters while the patient sleeps. These splints are intended to facilitate the movement of air in order to alleviate snoring or mild to moderate sleep apnea and are only a temporary solution in certain cases, not a correction method.

Recessed chin in infants

Diagnosing a recessed chin in infants and children is an important step as it allows for effective treatment without the need for surgery. During this developmental phase, interceptive and functional orthodontics can be used to modify the growth of the bone structure and correct mandibular retrognathia. Once this phase is over, however, it becomes impossible to alter the bone structure through orthodontic treatments and surgery is the only option available.

Patient gets an examination of her lower jaw by a specialist

Mandibular advancement device for children

There are a few different mandibular advancement devices that can be used in children to aid the growth of the lower jaw and potentially fix a weak jawline. Between the ages of 6 and 14, is the ideal time to use this type of device. It is most effective when used during the prepubertal peak and while the child is still in the growth phase.

These dental devices serve as a tool to correct the jaw. They work by exerting force on the bones, thus improving the facial bone structure.

Extraoral anchorage in orthodontics

An extraoral anchorage is used in orthodontics as an interceptive treatment to slow the growth of the maxillary bone. Again, this treatment only works in children when the bones are still growing. Extraoral means outside the mouth, so the treatment involves attaching headgear to the child's neck.

Herbst appliance

The Herbst appliance is a fixed functional orthodontic appliance that is used to adjust the distance between the upper and lower jaw. The device works by propelling the jaw forward, resulting in better occlusion and improving the patient’s facial profile by correcting their receding chin. This fixed functional orthodontic appliance is most suitable for children who are nearing completion of their growth phase, as it will provide them with the best outcome.

Bionator appliance

The Bionator is a functional intraoral and removable mandibular advancement appliance which is used to correct mandibular retrognathia in children. It works by blocking the movement of teeth and stimulating forward growth of the recessed mandible. With the Bionator appliance, it's also possible to reduce deep bite as well as improve physiological problems.

Impress treatments for cases of receding chin in patients of all ages

In adult cases of a recessed jaw, surgery is the only solution available to help reduce the visual effect and address any associated dental issues. At Impress, we offer different dental treatments that can help solve class 2 malocclusion problems caused by the receding chin. Although Impress can treat the bite issue, it still won’t be able to solve the bone problem present. Furthermore, we are also able to provide treatment for adult cases in which a recessed chin has caused crowding, separation of teeth or other dental problems that require intervention. This is typically done after the patient undergoes surgery for a mandibular retrognathia.

For adolescents with receding jaws, where growth is still ongoing and all the permanent teeth have already come through, we suggest Impress Teens. Impress Teens treatment uses invisible aligners to treat mandibular advancement. However, the most effective time to treat mandibular retrognathia is starting at age 6. During this stage interceptive or functional orthodontic treatments such as those found in Impress Kids can be used for early intervention solutions.

At Impress we take into account all of these factors when creating personalized plans adapted to each individual's needs. Our team of experts will always ensure you receive optimal care throughout diagnosis and treatment so you can achieve successful results without compromising your comfort and satisfaction.

Check out the Impress locations near you to find out which offer Impress Kids and Impress Teens. To make an appointment or reach out to us with any questions by calling 888.490.1421 or by booking your initial consultation online.

We can’t wait to see you smile!

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Frequently asked questions about receding chins

Is my chin recessed?

To find out if your chin is recessed, you’ll need to see if the upper incisors are more prominent than the lower set. You should also ask yourself if you are experiencing difficulties with swallowing, speech or breathing. If so, it is likely that you have a receding chin. However, the diagnosis of a recessed chin should always be made by a specialist who will be able to clarify if you’re suffering from this condition, as well as give your treatment options.

Will a recessed chin in newborns go away?

There have been cases where a newborn’s recessed chin has gone away by itself in their first few days of life. But of course, there have been many other cases where it hasn’t. We recommend that you consult a pediatrician to examine the case if you think your baby has a recessed chin.

Is there a direct link between using a binky and mandibular retrognathia?

It’s true that binkies and mandibular retrognathia do have a cause and effect relationship. The use of binkies can trigger a weak jawline. Prolonged binky use or thumb sucking can hinder the growth of the lower jaw and generate issues such as receding chin.

Can you treat a recessed chin in newborns with breastfeeding positions?

There is potential to improve a recessed chin in newborns with different breastfeeding positions. Breastfeeding face up with the baby’s face down, getting it to tilt its head backwards can improve the recessed chin. Additionally, you can compress the breast with the index finger and thumb to help facilitate the baby's sucking, as the milk will come out with more force.

Can braces fix a receding chin?

No, braces can’t fix a receding chin because the problem is with the bone development and, therefore, can’t be altered with orthodontics. The only solution for a receding chin is surgery.


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