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How Mandibular Distraction is performed

Mandibular distraction is a treatment option for those (children or adults) with jaw abnormalities. Common jaw distractions that can be corrected with surgical option include midface retrusion, obstructive sleep apnea, temporo mandibular joint ankylosis, and cranial synostosis.


In most cases, children born with a very small or recessed lower jaw do not experience any problems. However, in some cases, micrognathia, as the condition is called, can cause serious problems in the first few months of the infant’s life. The main issue is breathing difficulty which is caused when the tongue moves back into the throat and blocks the airway when the child breathes in. This can seriously affect breathing and feeding.

In most cases, the child’s lower jaw may grow to the necessary length naturally. The treatments for micrognathia include modifications in eating habits, corrective surgery and corrective devices such as teeth that are misaligned due to the short jaw. In corrective surgery or mandibular distraction, pieces of bone are added or moved to extend the lower jaw.

Jaw Distraction Procedure

The procedure, performed by plastic surgeons specializing in reconstructive procedures, involves surgery to place distraction or lengthening devices into the jaw. These devices help to lengthen the jaw bone. As the procedure lengthens the jaw, it opens up the airway, allowing the child to breathe clearly. The surgery usually takes up to 2 hours and involves the following procedures:

• An incision is made through the skin under the jaw line
• A distraction device is placed on both sides of the incision
• The distraction device is adjusted over a period of days or weeks to stretch the incision, until the created gap is filled with the new bone
• The waiting process will continue until front of the jaw acquires the proper position
• The distraction device and connecting pins are removed

To prevent the jaw from collapsing, the distraction device is removed only after the new bone hardens.

How Mandibular Distraction Helps

This reconstructive procedure can help correct severe breathing problems in children. It eases airway obstruction and helps avoid the need for tracheostomy, a surgical procedure performed to create an opening through the neck into the trachea. By improving the oxygen level in the blood, the procedure can lead to weight gain, improved brain function, academic performance, and behavior, and help resolve gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Plastic surgeons with experience in reconstructive procedures can provide optimal results for mandibular distraction osteogenesis. There are reliable AAAASF-accredited plastic surgery centers in Houston, Texas that offer this treatment.

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