The Chin Implant Cover Up

This is not a conspiracy theory about plastic surgeons. In fact, it’s literally about a cover up—your chin, that is. A recent story on MSNBC reported that the rate of chin implants rose 71% from 2010 to 2011, compared to only 5% for Botox. This is a surprisingly high number, especially for a cosmetic procedure.

I was taught to perform chin implants during the plastic surgery portion of my residency training. It’s a simple procedure with dramatic results. I still remember how we were taught to do facial analysis showing how many people with weak chins also had humped noses and droopy tips. Not once did any of my teachers mention why this happened in some people and how it also involves an narrowed airway. 

Having a weak chin implies that your jaws are underdeveloped, which can lead to less space behind the tongue for breathing. Typically, your upper jaw will be recessed and narrow as well, leading to a high-arched hard palate, dental crowding, and a deviated nasal septum. Underdeveloped upper jaws can also lead to flat cheekbones, flimsy nostrils, and a droopy nose. Certain anatomists have said the humans should not have nasal humps. 

Surgeons will typically perform a rhinoplasty and chin implant together, with some incredible results. However, these same people are now showing up in my practice years later with major sleep-breathing issues, namely obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. 

You’ll also see that most people with weak chins can’t (or prefer not to) sleep on their backs. This is because when supine, your tongue falls back due to gravity. When you add deep sleep and muscle relaxation, you’ll stop breathing, wake up, and turn over to your side or stomach. If you stop breathing at least 5 times per hour for 10 seconds or longer (and you’re tired), you have obstructive sleep apnea. But you can stop breathing 25 times per hour and not have any sleep apnea if your pauses are less than 10 seconds long.

A better way to improve your jaw line is to undergo a sliding genioplasty or mandibular osteotomy with genioglossus advancement, both of which pulls your tongue attachment forward. A more definitive procedure involves maxillo-mandibular advancement, where surgeons pull both the upper and lower jaws forward. Other less invasive options include functional dental appliances.

Have you ever undergone chin implant surgery or rhinoplasty, only to have breathing problems surface later in life?

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One thought on “The Chin Implant Cover Up

  1. I looked at the implant surgery when Carol Burnett underwent a dramatic facial improvement many years ago. I didn’t go that way, but if I had, I would have had severe OSA in follow-up. I had a septoplasty for deviated septum and the removal of two large polyps by a plastic surgeon/ENT. Resolved a long-term problem of mouth breathing, and suppressed heavy snoring. But not oral resolve of tongue and tissue.