Micrognathia is a big word for a condition meaning an undersized jaw. It's quite common in infants, and in many situations, it corrects itself. This condition isn't preventable and may occur when a child has another syndrome. Understanding what causes an undersized jaw and how the condition affects an individual can help you accommodate any special needs and additional care they might need.
What Is Micrognathia?
Micrognathia is relatively common in infants. According to The Fetal Medicine Foundation, 1 case occurs in every 1,500 births. While this may sound concerning, it can be identified by ultrasound during pregnancy, allowing the child to be born in a care facility that meets the family's needs.
According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, micrognathia can be hereditary or caused by a genetic mutation. It appears as a birth defect in many syndromes, including Pierre Robin sequence, Stickler syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Treacher Collins syndrome, hemifacial microsomia, cleft lip and cleft palate, among others.
The undersized jaw can cause issues with nursing and breathing, especially when associated with Pierre Robin sequence. Micrognathia can lead to improper position of the tongue, making it difficult for the infant to suck, according to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. In these situations, a feeding tube may help the child receive nourishment.
The abnormal placement of the tongue may also affect the infant's ability to breathe normally. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia notes that the condition can cause irregular tooth alignment because of the limited amount of room in the mouth.
As a child develops, micrognathia often corrects itself. However, should this not be the case, there are both surgical and nonsurgical methods of treating the jaw. It is important to speak with your child's doctor to identify which method would be most appropriate for your child.
Nonsurgical methods do not change the jaw position, but they may allow for a more comfortable life. As the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explains, one treatment option is to change your child's sleeping position so they lie face down, which encourages a clear airway. Some patients may also use a nasopharyngeal airway, a tube placed in the nasal passage to open the airway.
Surgery options should be extensively discussed with your doctor. Their recommendations will differ based on your child's age and stage of development, but may include a procedure to tie the base of the tongue to the lower jaw closer to the chin or a tracheostomy procedure to create an airway opening. To surgically lengthen the jawbone, your doctor may suggest a procedure called mandibular distraction osteogenesis. This surgical treatment entails inserting screws into the jawbone during the first weeks of life. The device may stay in place for 12 weeks until the new bone forms, according to the Children's Hospital of Orange County.
Micrognathia is not necessarily a life-threatening condition, but early diagnosis is the key to managing the condition. Your doctor and dentist can provide advice on how to provide the best quality of life for the affected individual. When caring for someone with this condition or any of these syndromes, patience and commitment are essential.
Make sure to find a medical team who understands the needs of your child, including a dentist who can accommodate your child's condition and guide them on a proper oral care routine. See them regularly for checkups to ensure your child's mouth is developing properly and staying as healthy as possible.