Mamas, breastfeeding isn’t always straight forward, especially if you have a newborn with an overbite and/or recessed chin. If you noticed your baby’s chin looks far back or sunken in, she may have a recessed chin. This recessed chin can also cause your baby to develop an overbite, where her upper teeth appear to protrude over the lower teeth. When an overbite and recessed chin occur together, your baby has what is called retrognathia.
This is so common, yet is not well talked about and usually ignored during newborn checks, leaving moms like you worried and feeling it’s all in your head. Trust me, it’s not, and your concerns are absolutely valid.
Newborn overbite/recessed chin affects your baby’s ability to latch on to your nipple while breastfeeding, and is usually mistaken for tongue tie. Keep reading to learn more about overbite/recessed chin, when to worry and the treatment options available.
- What is newborn overbite/recessed chin like?
- Causes and symptoms of newborn overbite/recessed chin
- How to feed a baby with newborn overbite/recessed chin?
- Treatment options for newborn overbite/recessed chin
Table of Contents
What Does it Mean to Have a Baby with an Overbite/Recessed Chin?
Having a baby with an overbite/recessed chin, otherwise, called retrognathia means that your baby’s chin is set back from the upper jaw. Here, your baby’s jaw appears smaller and receded, while her upper teeth protrude some centimeters (3cm) over the lower teeth.
Is it Normal for Newborns to Have an Overbite and/or a Recessed Chin?
A slightly recessed chin is a normal part of your baby’s development and corrects itself as your baby grows older. However, as pediatricians, we find severe chin recession or chin recession lasting longer than 6 months to one-year to be worrisome as it can affect your baby’s ability to eat, speak clearly or even cause an obstruction in your baby’s airway.
What Causes an Overbite/Recessed Chin?
The causes of overbite/recessed chin in babies include:
In some cases, retrognathia runs in families and your baby probably just inherited it. Recessed chin/overbite occurring as a result of genetics do not resolve over time and thankfully, does not cause any major problems in your baby’s speech and feeding.
A common cause of newborn overbite/recessed chin is micrognathia, which means your baby’s chin is smaller than usual. As expected, the smaller chin will look receded when compared to the normal sized upper jaw. Micrognathia itself is a common occurrence among babies that can run in families or could occur as a result of a genetic mutation. Like retrognathia, your baby can also outgrow micrognathia.
Trauma inflicted on your baby’s face during birth or within the early years of your baby’s development could cause the chin to misalign and appear sunken or recessed.
Rare genetic conditions
Your baby could have an overbite/recessed chin because of an underlying genetic condition. Genetic conditions such as Pierre-Robin sequence is a common cause of newborn overbite/recessed chin.
Symptoms of Overbite/Recessed Chin
Newborn overbite/recessed chin is not always very obvious, and recognizing it may not be so straightforward. However, the following are signs to look out for in your baby if she has an overbite/recessed chin:
Your baby’s chin looks sunken in or set back from the upper jaw: With newborn overbite/recessed chin, your baby’s chin looks smaller and set back and this is newborn chin recession, while her upper jaw looks like its protruding beyond the chin, and this is newborn overbite.
Your baby has difficulties latching on to your nipple: Most times, newborn chin recession/overbite may not be noticeable and first, but becomes obvious once your baby starts breastfeeding. Due to the disproportion between your baby’s chin and upper jaw (maxilla), your baby may find it difficult to latch onto your nipple while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
Your baby takes longer time to feed: Because of the difficulties in latching and swallowing that can occur as a result of your baby’s chin recession/overbite, your baby may have to take a longer time to feed.
Your baby isn’t gaining weight as she should: If your baby’s overbite/chin recession is severe and not managed appropriately, she may not be eating adequately, and as a result, not getting enough nutrient that she needs to add weight normally
Your baby’s breathing is noisy: Newborn chin recession/overbite affects the anatomy of your baby’s mouth and can cause her to breathe more from her mouth, and may also narrow her airway, leading to breathing difficulties which can present as loud breathing or snoring.
Your baby isn’t sleeping well: Breathing difficulties that come with newborn overbite/recessed chin usually worsen at night, causing your baby to have apneic spells, that is, short periods where she isn’t breathing. This spell can occur several times at night, and this usually wakes her up from sleep, thus reducing your baby’s quality of sleep.
Tips for Feeding a Baby with an Overbite/Recessed Chin
Newborns with overbite/chin recession usually have great difficulties when it comes to breastfeeding, and here are tips I would recommend to help your baby to have a better feeding experience:
Use a nipple shield or bottle
One of the major problems that babies with overbite/recessed chin, is difficulty latching onto the nipple. Using a nipple shield will make it easier for your baby to latch on and breastfeed. Also, pumping and bottle-feeding or supplementing her feeds with baby formula are other ways to feed her better.
Get a lactation consultant
Breastfeeding a baby with overbite/chin recession can be difficult to navigate on your own. Getting a lactation consultant will go a long way to making breastfeeding easier for you and your baby.
Try different breastfeeding positions
Due to your newborn’s chin recession, her tongue rests at the back of the mouth when it should come forward to help her suck. Positions like tummy-to-tummy (also called biological position or laid-back position) position where you recline or lay down on a bed with your baby resting on you while breastfeeding can help your baby breastfeed better. This position utilizes gravity to help pull your baby’s tongue forward to aid sucking and breastfeeding.
How to Fix an Overbite/Recessed Chin
An overbite/recessed chin is fixed by an orthodontist and the treatment option depends on your child’s age. For young children, a severe overbite can be corrected by putting on special headgear to slow down the growth of the upper jaw (maxilla).
However, for kids who have reached adolescence or teenage age, their facial bones are no longer growing and surgical procedures such as chin implant, maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), sliding genioplasty or mandible osteotomy becomes necessary.
Noticing something different in your newborn is a very vital part of motherhood. Most times, mothers spot what the doctors may have missed, which makes a whole lot of difference in getting your little one the care she needs early enough.
You are not overreacting or being paranoid. Your observations and concerns are valid, and any decent doctor should understand that and take your complaints seriously.
Newborn overbite is a very common cause of difficulties with breastfeeding and is usually a normal part of your baby’s development. When I, as a pediatrician, get concerned is if your baby does not outgrow it, and it becomes so severe that your baby begins to have breathing difficulties. In all, if you are worried or have concerns regarding your newborn’s overbite/recessed chin, do well to see the doctor to get your baby checked and get expert advice.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.