As the jaw develops, it may grow too much or too little if there is an issue in the process of jawbone formation. Impairments in jaw growth can lead to issues with teeth, causing a misaligned bite and issues speaking and eating. Jaw deformities can occur by chance as an isolated event, or they can occur due to conditions such as cleft lip and/or palate or Pierre Robin sequence, hemifacial microsomia, craniosynostosis, Treacher Collins syndrome, ectodermal dysplasia, and jaw trauma.


An abnormally shaped jaw, typically resulting in malocclusion (an improper bite), is the most common sign of jaw deformities, which can range from mild to severe. More specifically, malocclusion can result in:

  • A severe underbite, whether due to an overdeveloped upper jaw or underdeveloped lower jaw
  • A severe overbite, due to the exact opposite development issues
  • An open bite, where both jaws grow outward, inhibiting the teeth to touch properly
  • Asymmetrical jaws, which occur when one side of the jaw grows longer than the other


An oral exam and X-rays performed by a maxillofacial surgeon, along with your child’s medical history, can be used to diagnose jaw deformities and inform the treatment plan.


Some jaw deformities can be treated with braces or other orthodontic appliances, such as palatal expanders and arch retainers. More severe jaw deformities may require surgery to fix alignment. Those surgeries may include traditional bone grafts and bone lengthening.

Orthognathic jaw surgery can correct severe jaw misalignment that cannot be fully corrected with orthodontics. Surgery involves changing the position of the upper and lower jaw and/or the bones that support the teeth.

Proper alignment of the jaws and teeth can improve your child’s ability to chew, speak and breathe. It can also improve the appearance of his or her smile and facial profile. Our team of specialists at the North Carolina Cleft and Craniofacial Center provide comprehensive care, from reconstruction and surgery to therapy and future checkups.