Children's Hospital Colorado


What is micrognathia?

Micrognathia is an undersized lower jaw in children that can cause an overbite. Sometimes the jaw is small enough to interfere with feeding, sleeping or breathing. When micrognathia makes feeding difficult, special nipples or positioning might be helpful. Micrognathia can also cause teeth to align incorrectly because they don't have enough room to grow.

Micrognathia is relatively common in infants, but can correct itself as children grow. When it does not correct itself, non-surgical treatments are usually effective. At Children's Hospital Colorado, a team of specialists from our Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic will determine the best care plan for your child if they have micrognathia. This team includes pediatric otolaryngologists, plastic surgeons, craniofacial orthodontists and pediatric dentists, all of whom have special training in caring for children with micrognathia.

What causes micrognathia?

Micrognathia is typically congenital, meaning children are born with it. Children can inherit micrognathia or it can occur on its own through genetic mutations. It may be part of certain genetic syndromes, such as:

Who gets micrognathia?

Micrognathia is typically present at birth, but it can occur later in life. It is most common in children with specific genetic disorders. When jaw size corrects itself through growth, it usually happens between 6 and 18 months of age.

What are the signs of micrognathia?

The primary sign of micrognathia is a small lower jaw. Other signs of micrognathia vary between children and may differ based on the syndrome or condition that caused it.

Common symptoms for micrognathia include:

  • Trouble feeding
  • Prolonged feeding
  • Falling behind their growth curve, also known as failure to thrive
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes interrupted breathing while sleeping
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Slow weight gain

How is micrognathia diagnosed?

Diagnosis can happen at many stages and depends on when you or your physician see symptoms.

Occasionally, pediatric experts can diagnose micrognathia before birth using an ultrasound. In this case, your doctor will track your child's jaw growth throughout pregnancy. If your child has a smaller jaw, you should consult a maternal fetal medicine specialist because micrognathia increases the chances of other associated birth defects.

More commonly, a craniofacial specialist will conduct a medical history and physical exam of your baby after birth. They will examine your child's upper and lower jaw, tongue and overall health. Our specialist will also determine if your child has a cleft palate and facial asymmetries (differences between the left and right side).

Based on this exam and your child's symptoms, our team might also order X-rays, a sleep study or examine your child's throat with a telescope. These tests will help us evaluate the anatomy and function of your child's face and jaw in order to detect any sleeping issues they might have.

What should you expect from a micrognathia test?

Evaluation for micrognathia will vary based on your child's age and symptoms. Your child may see a single specialist for a brief office visit with no additional tests. If necessary, your child's visit may last a half day with several specialists and the necessary tests and X-rays. Your care team will let you know what to expect before your visit.

Why choose Children's Colorado for a micrognathia test?

A correct diagnosis is the first step toward your child living without breathing or feeding issues. Children's Colorado provides the only clinic in the region with specialists who are specifically trained to diagnose and treat children with micrognathia. We have all the necessary specialists, equipment and resources tailored just for children with craniofacial conditions.

Micrognathia treatment options

Children with micrognathia are treated based on the problems that micrognathia is causing or may cause in the future. Starting treatment as an infant is often best.

Some children's jaws will enlarge as they grow, or we may be able to correct micrognathia with non-surgical options. Treatment may consist of simple watching and waiting as growth occurs or basic orthodontic treatment from a pediatric craniofacial orthodontist. When necessary, our pediatric surgeons perform surgical reconstruction or enlargement of the jaw. One of the surgical procedures commonly used is called mandibular distraction osteogenesis (MDO). Surgeons at Children's Colorado have a great deal of experience with this procedure as well as others used to surgically correct micrognathia.

Why choose Children's Colorado for micrognathia treatment?

A newborn's jaw doesn’t develop like an adult's jaw, which is why it is necessary to see a team of specialists who focus their treatment specifically for children. Ours is the only team in the region that focuses solely on children's craniofacial conditions and has the experience to ensure the best outcome for your child.

From specialized equipment to extra training in pediatric care to a child-friendly environment, Children's Colorado is the best choice in the Rocky Mountain region for your child's micrognathia care. Our specialists provide the best initial diagnosis and treatment, but also ongoing care to make sure your child's jaw is growing properly and that it is not causing any other health problems associated with micrognathia.