A recessed chin can often be diagnosed during routine ultrasound examinations while pregnant. The condition can range from mild, which can self-correct, to severe, requiring medical intervention.
There are many different syndromes associated with recessed chin, and each case is evaluated on individual merits and severity.
Often, recessed chin in babies is only determined after birth when a parent may notice their child may have difficulty breathing and struggle to feed.
Slow weight gain is common among children with recessed chins as they use a lot of energy to feed. In such cases, corrective surgery may be necessary.
A recessed chin is a complex medical condition that will require some form of medical support.
Below is an overview of the condition to get a clearer understanding of what can be done to help your baby.
Early diagnosis of a recessed chin in babies is vital
A recessed chin is when the lower jaw bone has not fully developed and is smaller than the upper jaw.
This can be caused by several reasons that include hereditary genetics, one of many afflicting syndromes, or it can be caused by the baby’s position in the womb, where the lower jaw is pressed against the chest and movement is restricted.
Infants naturally have a slightly recessed chin at birth which is part of normal development, but if the gap between the upper and lower gum is 3mm or more, breastfeeding becomes a struggle.
However, by adopting gravity breastfeeding methods, this challenge can be simplified.
A lactation specialist will be able to help you with effective breastfeeding methods to ensure your baby feeds normally.
Mild cases of a recessed chin in babies
In some babies, a recessed chin may look normal but will become more evident as your child grows and develops teeth and begins speaking.
You may notice that your child has problems chewing, biting, or speaking, which points to misaligned teeth, which an orthodontist or oral surgeon may treat.
There are signs to look for with young babies, like pauses in breathing during sleep. This is called obstructive sleep apnea and can be related to a smaller lower jaw.
Furthermore, if your baby has trouble feeding, you should contact your doctor urgently for a proper diagnosis so treatment can begin.
Some cases will already be diagnosed during routine ultrasound examinations, and your doctor will monitor the condition and discuss treatment options with you.
If the condition is mild and your baby can feed and breath normally, you may take your baby home with you, but treatment cannot be ruled out.
Severe cases of a recessed chin in babies
In severe cases, immediate medical intervention is necessary to facilitate normal breathing, and your baby may remain in hospital until normal breathing and feeding are achieved.
Corrective surgery to keep your baby’s tongue from blocking the nasal passage might be essential.
The earlier a proper diagnosis can be done by an ear, nose, and throat specialist, the better for your little one.
The medical term for a recessed chin is micrognathia which means “small mandible.”
Most cases are congenital, meaning babies are born with the condition.
Some cases stem from inherited disorders but it can also be the result of genetic mutations that occur on their own and are not passed down to younger generations.
Genetic syndromes associated with micrognathia
Listed below are six genetic syndromes associated with a recessed chin in babies.
1. Pierre Robin Syndrome
It causes your baby’s chin to form at a slower rate in the womb, which causes the tongue to fall backward into the throat.
This makes breathing difficult as your baby’s airway can be easily blocked.
Breathing, feeding, and sleeping are usually impaired.
There may also be an opening in the roof of the mouth or cleft palate, occurring in about 1 in 8,500 to 14,000 babies. It can be a mild to severe problem.
2. Trisomy 13 and 18
This occurs when a baby has three chromosomes instead of the normal two and can cause severe mental deficiencies and physical deformities.
Trisomy 13 is also known as Patau syndrome and affects 1 in 16,000 babies.
Trisomy 18, or Edwards syndrome, affects 1 in 6,000 babies.
A rare inherited disorder where the pituitary gland makes too little growth hormone which causes a smaller lower jaw and a narrow chest as well as short limbs, neck, and torso.
This is a genetic rapid aging syndrome with no signs at birth but becomes visible within the first two years.
This syndrome is not hereditary but a genetic mutation that is synonymous with a small lower jaw, slow growth, hair loss, and a very narrow face.
5. Cri-du-chat syndrome
A genetic condition that is usually not hereditary, causes developmental disabilities and physical deformities that include low-set ears and a small lower jaw.
6. Treacher Collins syndrome
This hereditary condition causes severe facial abnormalities that include a small lower haw, cleft palate, absent cheekbones, and malformed ears.
Treatment options for micrognathia or a recessed chin
Treatment will largely depend on the severity of the condition and the underlying syndrome.
A complete diagnosis will establish whether medication and close monitoring or corrective surgery and supportive care is the best treatment option.
In some cases, the lower jaw will grow on its own, especially during puberty, and no treatment will be necessary.
In other cases, special eating equipment and modified eating methods will help.
At times braces can help to align the teeth and lastly, a surgeon will recommend corrective surgery to add bone to the lower jaw to extend it to its normal size.
The different treatments look at ensuring regular breathing, eating, and everyday speech.
Each case is unique, and treatments are designed to improve the overall quality of life.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a concern among babies with recessed chins
As stated earlier, Pierre Robin syndrome can be a mild to severe condition.
The severity is directly linked to the tongue being further back, which tends to fall back in the throat and cause a temporary blockage of the airway.
This occurs during sleep when the muscles are more relaxed. Obstructive sleep apnea affects about 2% of infants.
The condition causes a decrease in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to developing organs, giving rise to developmental issues.
Oxygen is essential for normal development, and an impediment to normal breathing during sleep is serious enough to warrant emergency surgery.
Mandibular Distraction Osteogenesis (MDO) is a surgical procedure that extends the lower jaw bone to facilitate a normal bite pattern.
The jaw bone is slowly lengthened by cutting the bone and inserting a turning device on both sides.
When the device is turned, the jaw moves slowly forward and the tongue with it.
It will take a few weeks for the jaw to be moved enough to ease breathing problems, which will improve the quality of sleep.
The MDO procedure is not without risk as damage can be caused to tooth buds, sensory nerves, and infection may set in. A relapse to the original condition is also possible.
The benefits of MDO surgery include improved feeding, decreased reflux, normal breathing, which means avoiding using a permanent breathing tube.
The physical appearance of your child will also improve which will improve their psychological wellbeing as well.
Will braces help to correct a weak chin?
In cases where there is an overbite or an open bite and the receding chin is connected to orthodontic issues, you may be able to treat it with a retainer or braces.
However, it’s important to identify the cause which could be dental or skeletal. In the case of the cause being bone-related, surgery in combination with orthodontics may be necessary.
Can micrognathia correct itself?
Yes, in some cases, micrognathia can correct itself over time, but the condition must still be monitored.
It’s best to discuss concerns with your doctor or a specialist who may suggest a treatment plan to support possible natural healing.
What causes a recessed chin?
There are a number of syndromes, including hereditary genes, that may be the cause.
Some are listed in this article. But if you consider how a baby’s bottom jaw develops in the womb, you will see that it is a very complex process.
Several elements grow separately and fuse together later on, leading to any number of things going wrong.
A recessed chin can oftentimes be detected while your baby is still in your womb through an ultrasound examination.
If it’s confirmed, immediately begin discussing how best to care for your little one and what treatment options are available.
Your doctor will closely monitor your baby’s progress and discuss viable treatment according to how mild or severe the condition looks.
A recessed chin may correct itself over time, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary to allow for normal breathing, especially during sleep.
Eating and speaking ability will also be monitored and treatments may include special eating devices or corrective surgery.