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What Is Maxillary Hypoplasia?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Maxillary hypoplasia is an underdevelopment of the bones in the upper jaw. This condition can give the middle of the face a sunken appearance, and makes the lower jaw look like it is protruding even if it is anatomically normal. Corrective surgery is available to reposition the upper jaw in order to address the aesthetic and medical concerns associated with maxillary hypoplasia. It can be performed early in childhood to allow the jaw ample time to recover and develop as a child matures.

Some people have this condition because of a genetic disorder or developmental anomaly; for example, it can be associated with cleft lip and palate. Others may develop acquired maxillary hypoplasia, usually as a result of poorly planned dental extractions. If teeth are removed from the upper jaw, it may fail to develop, and could become sunken over time. A full evaluation can determine the cause, which may help a doctor identify other medical issues that might need attention.

One concern with this condition is aesthetic. The sunken appearance of the jaw may attract unwanted attention and can make a patient feel uncomfortable. In addition, it can make it hard to eat, and may cause problems in the future for the patient. For both of these reasons, surgery may be recommended to correct the disorder. This needs to be performed in consultation with an orthodontist who can work on repositioning the teeth in the mouth.

Surgical techniques to treat maxillary hypoplasia can vary, depending on the specifics of the case. Medical imaging can help the surgeon plan by illustrating the specific areas of underdevelopment and providing information about the anatomy of the patient’s upper jaw. Using these data, the surgeon can make a plan to reposition the jaw, add support to help it heal, and work with an orthodontist to move and straighten the teeth, if necessary. Other issues like a cleft lip can also be addressed, if they haven’t already been treated.

Recovery from surgery to treat maxillary hypoplasia can very in length depending on the extent of the surgery. Patients may need to eat soft foods for several days or weeks while their jaws recover, and will usually need regular checkups to monitor the surgical site for signs of infection, bone displacement, and other issues. Surgeons use careful planning to minimize scarring so the signs of surgery will be minimally visible, but a revision surgery may be necessary in some cases.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1000526 — On Oct 11, 2018

A local dentist removed all my upper teeth, apparently for no reason other than to get the insurance money. I needed four root canals but she told me I needed nine and that it would be "better" to just get a denture. I didn't know any better. So, she removed my teeth, put in an immediate denture (which never fit) and then referred me to an oral surgeon to have two canine protrusions removed. The oral surgeon actually performed an overly aggressive alveoplasty and removed my entire maxilla ridge! I didn't know it, but I also had what's called a "flat palate," so when the two dentists were finished I had a denture that did not fit and could never fit because of my palate and because the ridge was entirely removed. I have to 'glue' in the denture. It's only for appearances. I have not had a single bite of food for almost nine years now. No attorney would take the case, and then there is no OMF surgeon in Alaska that takes Medicaid, so I must go out of state to Seattle's Harborview to have all this repaired.

Never get dental work done in Alaska! The quacks come up here, usually running from problems in the Lower 48. If only I knew then what I know NOW! My face is ruined, I have no way to eat solid foods and I am a diabetic. It's been hell on my health (blood sugars have not been controllable this entire time) and I look like I am 20 years older than I am. All due to incompetence and greed. Beware of dentists who want to pull all of your teeth. Dentures aren't for everyone!

Now, my lower jaw juts out, and I have nerve damage. Life has been hell, and there have been times that I have considered suicide. I can't find a job, who would hire me looking like this? I'm ugly now, cannot eat and have so many gastro problems from swallowing food practically whole. I am now trying to get down to Seattle to see the OMF surgeon, and hopefully they can give me a complete bone graft and implants. But honestly, I'll take the bone graft and wear dentures if that's what will work best! I just want to eat food again. And yes, I would like my face back, too.

By anon942146 — On Mar 26, 2014

I am 48 years old and preparing to have this surgery done. About three years ago, I had two blood clots in my left arm and my doctor took my hormone medication away from me immediately. Within six months of my doctor doing this my teeth began to break off, chip and actually fall right out for no apparent reason! Let me add this to my story, prior to this doctor taking my hormone medication away, I had perfectly aligned, straight, white, etc. teeth. I was asked by many, many people if I had braces in my younger years because my teeth were so perfect.

By my teeth breaking off, chipping and falling out led to a very tragic outcome. My mouth began to get infected and I was put on antibiotics which ended up being on them for quit some time. The antibiotics wouldn't even clear up the infection and I was on them for so long that I began to show signs of C-Dif (you get C-dif from taking to many rounds of antibiotics and leads to be put in the hospital under isolation! C-Dif can be very life threatening too).

Well, I ended up getting all of my teeth pulled all the while feeling each and every one of them as this dentist was pulling them. I took him three visits to ever get all of my teeth out. This dentist gave me 15 shots of Novocain and four nerve blockers at each of these three visits and my mouth still wasn't numb! I often refer to this dentist and his practice as the torture chamber!

By this dentist do this in the manner that he did messed my mouth up terribly. Since he began this episode in November of 2012 I have already been through three oral surgeries and getting ready for my fourth one at this time. This dentist ended up cutting some of my teeth out and this has led to bone graft surgery getting ready to be my fourth surgery. Also, somehow over this process/time my bottom gum began to protrude out about 1 and 1/2 inches and now I have a huge under bite. I never had an under bite or an over bite prior to this episode. Let me remind you again, my teeth were close to perfect before this began. I will be going in the hospital for my fourth surgery in April.

The oral surgeon has to break my jaw and wire it shut for six weeks while it is healing. The name of this surgery is maxillary hypoplasia/ maxillary osteotomy and he also has to do more bone grafting. I am just a little nervous about this surgery because it is going to be the worst one yet! Once I heal from this surgery I have to go back to get my implants.

Anyway, any information, words of encouragement, etc. will be greatly appreciated! God bless.

By stoneMason — On Apr 02, 2013

@ddljohn-- I had maxillary hypoplasia surgery in my teens. I would have had it done earlier but the doctors said that they have to wait until my jaw growth is complete.

By ddljohn — On Apr 01, 2013

@burcidi-- It can be done, my aunt had it done when she was in her early forties. But it cost her a lot and she was in a lot of pain for months.

She didn't actually have one surgery but multiple surgeries. Her upper jaw was tiny compared to her lower jaw. She didn't have problem eating or anything but she was just tired of the way she looked.

Now she's happy that she got it done but when I first met her after the surgery, she was quite miserable and seemed to be regretting it. I think it's a lot easier to have the surgery done in childhood.

By burcidi — On Mar 31, 2013

There is someone at my workplace who has this. Until I read this article, I also thought that the problem was with her lower jaw because it really looks like its protruding and ahead of the upper jaw. Her lower teeth are more apparent for this reason. She didn't have it fixed when she was young and now she's well into her thirties.

I don't think it bothers her though. She has accepted it and is a confident and intelligent woman. She does get odd looks sometimes but she just ignores it.

Just curious, can maxillary hypoplasia be fixed in adults?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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