What is Prognathism?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Prognathism is a condition in which part of the jaw protrudes, causing the chin or upper jaw to jut forward. It can be genetic, as in the case of the famous Hapsburg jaw, or it can be the result of a medical condition. Depending on the severity of the condition, various treatments can be used to reduce the protrusion. Medical treatment is usually used when the jutting jaw interferes with eating, breathing, or speaking, or if someone feels profoundly uncomfortable about his or her facial structure.

There are three types: mandibular, maxillary, and alveolar. In mandibular prognathism, the lower jaw protrudes, causing the chin to jut out from the face. Maxillary prognathism involves the upper jaw, and typically creates an elongated facial appearance. Patients with alveolar prognathism experience abnormalities around the part of the jaw where the teeth are located, with the teeth jutting out from the face at an angle.


In some cases, prognathism is simply genetic. People from certain family lines and people in some regions of the world naturally have this condition, and it is a fairly common family trait. In other instances, it may be caused by a genetic mutation, or a genetic disorder such as Crouzon syndrome. It can also develop in response to conditions which emerge later in life, like acromegaly, a disorder in which too much growth hormone is produced. If the problem develops suddenly, it can be a sign that someone is experiencing a medical condition which needs to be addressed.

Sometimes, prognathism can be caused by physical trauma or by some activity on the part of the patient. Alveolar prognathism, for example, is linked with thumb-sucking in children. Routine sucking of the thumb or fingers night after night can cause the teeth to move in the jaw, just as wearing orthodontics can correct the positions of drifting teeth. The jaw may also move after a break or serious injury, especially if it is not set properly.

Often, medical professionals recommend leaving prognathism alone. However, it can become a problem, and in these instances, there are some corrective measures which can be taken. Corrective orthodontics which slowly pull the jaw into a less extreme alignment can be useful, especially in children, since they are still growing. Surgery can also be used to correct the condition, although the surgery can be expensive and the recovery time tends to be lengthy.


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Post 7

I have a mild Hapsburg jaw, and so do my two brothers, but my Mom and Dad do not have that underbite. My mother's mother and my mother's sister have it, but none of our cousins got it. It is weird all three of us ended up with a minor underbite.

Post 6

I definitely challenge the genetic hypothesis. Prognathism is very convenient to mark people and can be induced by food or diseases as a weapon. One thing is to have a prominent chin, another one is to have the jaw going swollen and misaligning in maturity.

Post 4

I had no idea that five Roman Emperors had prognathism and more than five Spanish rulers did too! There are some really well known names included in the list like Charles V and Ferdinand I. Marie Antoinette, the famous French queen apparently had it as well. I had learned about these rulers in history classes but had no idea that they had prognathism.

Post 3

@anon34452- I think the article pretty much covered it, there are corrective treatments and surgery available for prognathism. From what I understand though, both treatments require a lot of time to complete.

If someone with an advanced mandibular prognathism were to get surgery and dental implants, it would probably take 2-4 years for all of the treatment to be completed. It's definitely not easy to go through.

I agree with the author of the article that unless the prognathism was causing other health problems, one wouldn't decide to get this kind of treatment. If it's possible to solve the problem with corrective treatment, I think that's the best option.

Post 2

This was mentioned in one of my Anthropology lectures. Prognathism was actually a common feature of early humans, especially the Neanderthals. So it might have been a natural characteristic at some point in human history. But it definitely is not anymore and is considered to be genetic disorder if it is inherited.

The Habsburg dynasty for example, all had mandibular prognathism. They had a very large jaw and lip because the lower jaw grew too much. But I don't think that the members of the Habsburg family would have suffered from prognathism if there hadn't been so much inter-marriage between family members. There was a news article about how inter-marriage caused the end of the dynasty.

I think that the gene causing prognathism has been passed down from earlier humans, but that doesn't make it a normal or acceptable physical characteristic.

Post 1

Can anyone suggest a kind of treatment for this?

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