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Image of a smiling Arabic woman touching her chin representing recessed chin

Recessed chin – causes, concerns, and possible treatments

A chin that inclines back towards the neck, what can be referred to as a ‘weak’ or ‘receding’ chin, may be recessed.

Some people are born with a recessed chin. Others develop over time, usually due to an overbite – a misalignment of the jaw, where the top jaw juts out significantly further than the bottom.

While it's typically harmless, there’s no shame in wanting to do something about it. But what are the potential treatments for a recessed chin if you want to make a change?

What is a recessed chin?

A recessed chin, known medically as mandibular retrogenia, slopes back towards your neck instead of jutting out or lying flat. Because it affects facial appearance, most people view a recessed chin as a purely cosmetic issue, but it can impact more than just self-confidence. In some cases, a recessed chin can cause:

  • Pain when eating.
  • Jaw misalignment.
  • Orthodontic problems.

What causes a recessed chin?

Genetics

Our genetic makeup commonly causes recessed chins. It’s normal for this facial feature to run in families, although some relatives may have more pronounced chins than others.

Developing over time

In other cases, a receding chin is just a natural part of getting older. As we age, we often lose bone and soft tissue around our jaws, leading to the chin’s recessed appearance.

Some people have a slightly recessed chin from birth, thanks to an overbite. Over time, this can become more obvious as the child grows, but it can usually be fixed with braces and other orthodontic treatments to bring the chin forward.

Rare conditions

Recessed chins can also occur alongside rare congenital conditions such as:

  • Pierre Robin sequence.
  • Treacher Collins syndrome.

Both these conditions usually cause a small or underdeveloped jaw which can become recessed and are part of broader medical issues.

What are the symptoms of a recessed chin?

  • Problems feeding – Babies with a recessed chin may have trouble latching. As the child grows, and their jaw doesn't get large enough, they may struggle to bite or chew properly.
  • Snoring – With your chin further back, your tongue is more likely to fall back into your throat, contributing to snoring.
  • Crowded teeth – A recessed chin is often linked to a small lower jaw. Here, teeth don't have enough space to grow, leading to overcrowding.

Complications

  • Sleep apnoea – The recessed position of your jaw may increase the risk of your tongue slipping towards your airway when you lie down to sleep. This can cause blockages and wake you up, gasping and choking.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder – This condition often develops in conjunction with a recessed chin and can lead to muscle spasms, pain, and tension in the jaw.

How can I treat a recessed chin?

If your recessed chin isn't causing any pain or other complications, there’s no need to treat it. But, if it's something you’d like to change, there are several treatments available to help.

Chin implants

Chin implants, also known as chin augmentation, are a popular option because of the lack of soft tissue in the chin.

Your surgeon will:

  • Cut along the crease of your chin.
  • Place the implant inside the incision.
  • Stitch the incision back together.

Because of the location of the incision, there's typically minimal visible scarring. Chin implants do, however, carry a small risk of nerve damage, infection, or allergic reaction to the implants.

Horizontal sliding genioplasty

A horizontal sliding genioplasty is often recommended for people with both a short and recessed chin. It can help to give a more pronounced chin as well as lengthening it.

In this instance, your surgeon will:

  • Cut into the bony part of the chin.
  • Bring that segment of bone forward.
  • Secure the bone in place.

Unlike chin implants, this surgery uses your own bone and tissue to augment your chin, so there’s no risk of reacting to this ‘implant’. However, surgery and recovery times are longer.

Jaw surgery – upper and lower

You might need jaw surgery alongside a chin augmentation or as a stand-alone treatment. Your surgeon will help you decide on the best course of action for your case.

Your surgeon may need to bring your upper, lower or both jaws forward. To do so, they'll:

  • Separate your jaw.
  • Move it into place.
  • Fasten it with screws and bolts.

This is extensive surgery and has a much longer recovery time than chin augmentation. But it can help resolve many complications caused by your recessed chin. In contrast, implants and augmentation focus primarily on rectifying your cosmetic concerns.

If your recessed chin has caused dental issues, you may be able to find some orthodontic treatments, such as braces, to help rectify these.

Did you know?

  • Humans are the only species to have a specific piece of bone to form a chin. Other animals merely have different shaped bottom jaws, but they don’t have a chin structure like we do.
  • Chins may have helped our ancestors choose their mates. A 2010 study argued that different-shaped chins wouldn’t exist if it weren’t linked to attraction because there’s no functional reason for chins to look different.

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