What is a Jaw Implant?

L. Hepfer

A jaw implant, also known as a jaw augmentation, is when a surgeon uses synthetic or biological implants to make a person's jaw, or mandibular, seem more prominent. A jaw implant tends to make the facial features more defined. Sometimes a jaw implant is combined with a chin implant to further accentuate a person's face.

Bone grafts or silicone implants may be used to make a patient's jaw appear more defined.
Bone grafts or silicone implants may be used to make a patient's jaw appear more defined.

A good candidate for a jaw implant would be someone who has a weak-looking or under-defined facial structure in the jaw area. Having a weak jaw structure can tend to make a person's nose seem large or a prominent nose seem even larger. A person with a weak jaw structure may also appear to have a double chin.

A jaw implant may be necessary to fix facial damage as a result of head trauma.
A jaw implant may be necessary to fix facial damage as a result of head trauma.

Candidates for jaw implants must be in good health and have no pre-existing conditions, active diseases or bone disorders. They should be emotionally and mentally stable to undergo a cosmetic surgery. If a person suffers from depression beforehand, having cosmetic surgery could lead to a worse depression after surgery.

Bone grafts and silicone implants used to be the only options for a jaw implant. Today there are several options to consider. Bone grafting is where part of the bone is grafted from one area of the body and transferred. This can come from the patient or from a deceased donor. Tissue grafting is another option where tissue is grafted from either the patient or a deceased donor.

Surplus fat cells are used sometimes to complete a jaw augmentation. The surgeon will transfer fat from surplus fat cells on the patient's body to the mandibular bone. Silicone implants are often considered because they are soft and flexible, yet very durable.

Expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) implants are made from a subcutaneous augmentation material. Polyethylene implants are bio-compatible augmentation materials that eliminate the extra stress from the body, allowing the material to be accepted more easily. Modern science has even discovered a way to use altered coral materials to imitate bone matter, calling them hydroxapatite implants. Several different types of injectable methods are available as well.

It is extremely important to find a respectable surgeon, one who is board-certified in Plastic Surgery or Otolaryngology by The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). The preoperative consultation will consist of blood work, checking the white and red blood cell counts to rule out any pre-existing disorders such as leukemia or other cancers.

Quitting smoking before surgery greatly reduces risks associated with the surgery and anesthesia. It also reduces the risk of necrosis, which is the death of living cells and tissues. Medications should be discussed during the preoperative consultation to avoid complications after the procedure.

There will be pain in the face during recovery, and suture lines and incisions must be kept dry if they are outside of the mouth. If they are inside the mouth, the mouth must be kept clean at all times. Swelling may take place for three to five months, and bruising may be a factor but is only temporary. Slight numbness is normal but usually subsides after a few weeks.

There are several risks to keep in mind when having a jaw implant operation. Postoperative infections can happen, and a person may have to have the implants removed. This usually occurs within the first few weeks of surgery if it is going to be a problem. Proper cleaning of the suture lines and incisions greatly limits this risk.

Hematoma may occur, where blood clotting results in the tissues due to broken blood vessels. The implant may shift in the face and a second surgery would be needed to correct this. It takes time to regain sensation after the anesthesia wears off so an extended loss of sensation or numbness is normal.

Taking the medication Accutane® up to six months before surgery can post a great risk for someone having a jaw implant. This can cause hyperostosis, the increased growth of bone matter. The most commonly affected areas are the hands, feet and face. This also increases the chances of keloid-like scarring that occurs from skin traumas such as incisions. Keloid-like scarring is an abnormal scar that grows beyond the original scar.

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