Does Jaw Surgery Change the Shape of Your Face?

Jaw surgery is typically performed for functional reasons: to correct your bite and improve the way your jaw and teeth work together. Most people have jaw surgery for these reasons, but there are also cosmetic benefits. A perfect bite balances out your face and makes it more symmetrical.

Underlying functional issues requiring jaw surgery have cosmetic implications as well. For instance, if your lower jaw is too short (it hasn’t grown long enough for your teeth to fit together properly), you will have an overbite, which is reflected in your facial profile.

Common profile features on people with this condition include a nose that may look too large for the face, and/or a recessed or “weak” chin. In this case, jaw surgery to advance the lower jaw will give the profile more balance, making the nose look a bit smaller and the chin more prominent.

For some people, lower jaw advancement surgery may not be enouhh to correct a weak chin, so your surgeon may suggest either a genioplasty, where the chin bone is cut and moved forward, or a chin implant, which is inserted at the same time as the lower jaw surgery is performed.

In the case of someone who has a long lower jaw (it has grown too long for your face), you will have an underbite, which means your lower teeth are positioned outside your upper teeth. Your chin will be very prominent and will stick out quite far, giving a “bulldog” kind of look. The surgery will move your lower jaw backward so your lower teeth will sit behind your upper teeth, and your chin will be less prominent. Sometimes, a chin reduction will have to be done to balance the face properly.

If your upper jaw has grown too far, you will often have a “gummy smile”, which means you can see most or all of your upper gums when you smile, including the shape of the bone behind the gums. People with long upper jaws often have overbites, which may make the chin look “weak” as well. Moving the upper jaw backward corrects the overbite and the “gummy smile.”

For those with upper jaws that haven’t grown long enough, your nose may look too large for your face and/or you may have an underbite. Moving the upper jaw forward corrects the bite and also moves the support of the face forward, creating stronger features.

In some cases, moving the upper jaw forward may cause the nose to turn up slightly, which may not be desirable for some patients. As well, some people will have cheek implants added during upper jaw surgery, to give the face more definition.

Different combinations of the surgeries may be performed, depending on the condition. If you have a very large overbite, the upper jaw may be moved back and the lower jaw moved forward, resulting in a perfect bite and balanced profile.

The change in your appearance may be subtle or so dramatic that people won’t recognize you. It depends on how much your jaw is shifted forward or backward. Others may not notice if your lower jaw is advanced 4 mm, but you will see the difference. Larger amounts of jaw movement will produce more noticeable results.

It can be very stressful to look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you. With jaw surgery, you will not see the results right away, because your face is so swollen after surgery. As the swelling goes down,your new face will begin to emerge, with either a subtle or major change. Most of the time, people are pleased with the aesthetic results of the surgery, but in some cases, they are not happy with the change in appearance.

Either way, it will be shocking at first, but keep in mind that this is what you would have looked like had your jaws grown the length to which they were intended. Focus on the aspects of your new face that you like, such as a larger or smaller chin, or a nose that is less prominent.

Try to stay positive and give yourself time to get used to your new look. And be sure to remind yourself about all the other benefits of the surgery, such as a lack of TMJ pain, ability to eat a greater variety of foods, and a beautiful smile.