Orthodontics for Kids

Recessive Lower Jaw

We often have parents calling our Mississauga orthodontics office or our Sudbury orthodontics office, worried about their son or daughter’s recessive lower jaw. One of the best things that a parent can do is bring their child in early for orthodontic assessment to resolve issues with growth of the jaws and eruption of the teeth early. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first visit to the orthodontist by age 7. A recessive jaw is something that we can help correct early.

What is a recessive lower jaw?

A recessive lower jaw, also known as mandibular retrognathia, is a type of malocclusion or “bad bite” that occurs when the lower jaw has not grown enough compared to the upper jaw. A recessive lower jaw is erroneously classified as an overbite, which is the vertical overlap between the upper and lower teeth because patients with recessive lower jaws often present with deep overbites.

In a patient with a normal bite, the lower front teeth are usually in light contact with the back of the upper front teeth. In patients with recessive lower jaws, the lower front teeth contact behind the upper front teeth and sometimes, in severe cases, on the roof of the mouth. This gives the impression that the upper front teeth stick out and the patient has a deep bite. The horizontal distance between the upper and lower teeth is known as overjet. The smaller the lower jaw, the greater the overjet. If severe, the lower lip will curl in the gap between the upper and lower teeth causing a fold between the chin and the lower lip and the patient often has a weak chin. Just like underbites, the overjet that is present with a recessive lower jaws can vary in severity from mild or barely noticeable to severe, where there is a significant distortion of facial features and may create self-esteem issues in the future.

The degrees of lower jaw recession in young children

What are the causes of a recessive lower jaw?

Genetics is a major factor in recessive lower jaws. This type of bite is frequently seen in the population. The good news is that if a patient is seen early enough, orthodontists can help with modifying the growth of the jaws so that complicated and invasive surgical procedures can be avoided in the future.

Complications of recessive lower jaws

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Poor bite and tooth alignment
  • Chronic jaw or joint (TMJ) pain and other issues with joints
  • Difficulty breathing especially during sleep or when lying on one’s back
  • Sleep apnea, snoring and other night time breathing difficulties
  • Self esteem issues

When do you treat recessive lower jaws in younger children?

The best time to treat patients with recessive lower jaws is right before their pubertal growth spurt. There are certain physiological indicators that orthodontists are trained to notice both in their patient’s physical development and from x-rays that give us clues as to when a patient will be going through their final growth spurt.

When a patient enters puberty, there are certain growth factors and hormones present that not only help them to grow taller and develop more muscle tissue, but also help to stimulate the growth of the lower jaw. Because of this ,we will not normally start this type of treatment in younger children who are a few years away from puberty (ages 7-9). However, we are finding that more and more patients are undergoing puberty at an earlier age. In fact, in girls, the beginning of the pubertal growth spurt can occur before the patient even looses all their baby teeth. As a result we may start treatment to help the lower jaw grow first while we can take advantage of growth and finish off with braces once the adult teeth have erupted. In comparison to girls, we will initiate treatment for boys with recessive jaws closer to their growth spurt, at around age 13-15 years. At this time most or all of their adult teeth have erupted which means they can be treated simultaneously with braces and growth modification appliances.

Once a patient has passed their growth spurt, and there is no growth potential left, it is very difficult to correct their bite and profile using appliances. Instead, surgical options or extraction of teeth may have to be considered.

What appliances do you use to correct a recessive lower jaw in younger children?

We often use orthopedic appliances (devices that help growth) as opposed to orthodontic appliances (devices that move teeth) when a patient’s lower jaw has not grown enough. Most of these appliances are semi-permanent, which means they are fixed on to the teeth. These include the Herbst appliance, Japer Veckor appliance, Mara Appliance, AdvanceSync Appliance.

Removable appliances are available as well and include the Twin Block, Monoblock and Bionator.

Unfortunately, several studies have shown the removable appliances to be less effective at helping the lower jaw grow. These appliances are large and cumbersome, they often are hard to speak and function with (yes, your child has to wear them to school), and they usually have a poor fit – its no wonder kids don’t wear them!

Studies have shown that the clinical effectiveness of semipermanent appliances is far superior than removable appliances – which is why if you are start treatment at our Sudbury orthodontics office or our Mississauga Orthodontics office for recesslive lower jaws, Dr. Virdee will always recommend the appliance that will give you the best results – a fixed Herbst appliance.

What is a Herbst appliance?

A Herbst appliance is securely fastened to your child’s teeth and includes metal tubes that connect the upper and lower jaw. By adjusting the tube, your orthodontist is able to control the growth of the jaw. The Herbst appliance is more comfortable than most removable appliances – it is streamlined, discreet and may be visible when your child laughs or speaks

How long is treatment with a Herbst appliance?

Treatment time is usually 1 year, though this may vary depending on the child’s unique needs. If your child has their adult teeth by the time the appliance is removed we will begin with braces, otherwise there will be a rest period between phase I treatment and phase II treatment. By taking advantage of growth when a patient is younger, it is possible to avoid complicated and invasive procedures like surgery or extraction of permanent teeth.

Adjusting to the Herbst appliance?

Like anything new, your child has to adjust to the Herbst appliance in their mouth. The good news is, because children are more resilient than adults, it’s easier for them to adapt to something new. It usually takes about a week to get used to eating, chewing and speaking with the appliance. Eating softer foods will help with the muscle tenderness that may occur in the first week or two as your child gets used to their appliance. It is important to eliminate sticky foods, like candy and gum or hard, crunchy foods which can damage the appliance and lengthen treatment time.

What is the difference between Headgear and the Herst appliance?

The headgear appliance is one of the best appliances to help correct a recessive lower jaw – if it is worn well. It works by limiting the growth of the upper jaw so that the lower jaw can eventually catch up. This appliance has limited side-effects and is typically used during the same period as the Herbst appliance – usually right before the growth spurt. However it is removable and requires between 12-16h of wear for it to be effective. Most often, compliance with this appliance is poor – meaning that patients don’t always wear it well. Since the Herbst appliance is not removable, it has better clinical effectiveness than the Headgear appliance.

If you feel that your child has a recessive lower jaw, please contact our office for an initial consultation. Many parents think that the lower jaw can grow naturally. This may not always be the case. The best thing you can do for your child is to seek consultation from an orthodontist at an early age.

Click here to contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Virdee today!

Get a Free Consultation

Make an appointment today and start your child’s journey to a healthy and beautiful smile with Hometown Orthodontics.

Visit us on Instagram