The jutting edge: Studies show jaw size increases with age, influences aesthetic approach to rejuvenation (2024)

Jun 01, 2008

The jutting edge: Studies show jaw size increases with age, influences aesthetic approach to rejuvenation (1)Key Points

  • Research shows that patients' mandibles grow and widen with age
  • The insights provided by this research may influence the ways in which facial augmentation is approached

The jutting edge: Studies show jaw size increases with age, influences aesthetic approach to rejuvenation (2)
Dr. Rohrich

DALLAS — A strong jaw, a prominent lower face: images of masculinity in men and of strength and character in women — and, apparently, of advancing age. Recent research undertaken by physicians at University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, is shedding new light on the role of the aging mandible in perceptions of youth and beauty.

JAW-DROPPING RESEARCH The research, recently published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, was spearheaded by Joel E. Pessa, M.D., assistant professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern, and Rod Rohrich, M.D., F.A.C.S., chairman of plastic surgery there.

Dr. Pessa explains, "We noted that some people tended to have an increase in their jaw size with age," and they wanted to explore why and how. For their research, the surgeons obtained serial radiographs of eight men and eight women, and discovered that, over their lifetimes, the patients' mandibles continued to grow and widen as they aged.

It's been no secret that people's faces change as they age, but the UT researchers were surprised to observe the manner in which different portions of the face aged. "Yes, the entire facial skeleton does increase with age," Dr. Pessa relates, "but the jaw does so at an accelerated rate compared to the rest of the face. Therefore, there's a change in the shape of the face, and in the relative size of the jaw." It's also common knowledge that the redistribution or loss of facial fat as a person ages accentuates the appearance of age. "A youthful face is full and robust and generally perceived as more attractive," Dr. Rohrich says. "As we age, we lose this fullness early, especially around the eyes and outer cheek areas." So, how do the bony changes noted by the researchers relate to these fatty changes? Drs. Pessa and Rohrich explain that the bone ages independent of fat, "relying on hormones, stress factors, loss of teeth, etc. Fat also changes, and jowling gives the added effect that the chin has grown in size." This insight on the ever-lengthening mandible yields a better understanding of how bone and fat, and its compartmentalization, have a synergistic effect, creating a more aged look. To aesthetically address this, Dr. Pessa notes, "The treatment now is to try to decrease the amount of soft tissue around the chin with face lifting and liposuction, and by augmenting the cheeks — which makes the chin appear smaller."

NEW DIRECTIONS How do Dr. Pessa and Dr. Rohrich's discoveries influence their approach to patients requesting correction of the signs of aging? "We think completely differently in terms of adding volume to specific areas in order to recreate a youthful shape," Dr. Pessa says. "It was the anatomy that unlocked the key as to where we should be augmenting the face." While it may be impractical to reduce the size of the lower face, the bony effects of aging may be countered by selective augmentation of various fat compartments in other facial areas so that the lower face appears smaller relative to the upper face.

These findings may influence cosmetic surgery moving forward. "When long-term and safe fillers are available," Dr. Pessa says, "The younger patient will come to the office for rejuvenation that will be long lasting based on solid science." However, the soft tissue changes will still need to be addressed, he adds. "The facelift is a necessary procedure, and will still be needed when excess skin needs to be removed and repositioned."

This new understanding is paving the way for further studies that promise benefits beyond cosmetic surgery. Dr. Pessa explains, "The knowledge that there are compartments of fat is going to aid diabetes research and the general field of obesity research. Where do we store fat, and why? These are big questions that we're now able to study, because we know where to look. Knowledge of anatomy of the face always benefits and adds precision to what we, as plastic surgeons, do for our patients. [It's] already helped patients and will continue to do so in ways we cannot predict. Some of these [ongoing studies] here at UT will likely have as large an impact as these previous studies" have had, Dr. Pessa says, noting that Dr. Rohrich's team at UT Southwestern is already underway with a full-scale study of the entire body.


Reece EM, Pessa JE, Rohrich RJ. The mandibular septum: anatomical observations of the jowls in aging—implications for facial rejuvenation. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2008;121:1414-1420.

Rohrich RJ, Pessa JE. The fat compartments of the face: anatomy and clinical implications for cosmetic surgery. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2007;119:2219-2227; discussion 2228-2231.

TAGS: Surgical Procedures


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The jutting edge: Studies show jaw size increases with age, influences aesthetic approach to rejuvenation (2024)


Does the jaw get bigger with age? ›

"Yes, the entire facial skeleton does increase with age," Dr. Pessa relates, "but the jaw does so at an accelerated rate compared to the rest of the face.

How does the shape and size of the jaw change with age? ›

“These measurements indicate a significant decline in the jaw's volume as a person ages, and therefore less support of soft tissue of the lower face and neck.” This loss of bony volume may contribute sagging facial skin, decreased chin projection, and loss of jaw-line definition.

What influences jaw growth? ›

Proper jaw growth has to do with soft tissue and muscles of the face. When either the soft tissue or muscle is dysfunctional, it leads to bad habits at home. These habits are overactive lip and cheek muscles, mouth breathing, low tongue posture, or improper swallowing.

What is a jutting jawline called? ›

Prognathism refers to a protruding jaw. It is also called an extended chin or Habsburg jaw.

Does your jawline get sharper as you age? ›

The most typical effect that ageing has on the jawline is that it gets less defined with time. One reason is bone resorption which causes the angle of the jawl – or the posterior part of the jawline to become less defined. Jowling is another consequence of an ageing jawline.

What are the signs of aging jawline? ›

The jawline loses definition as fat in the jowls becomes more prominent with age and the cervicomental angle, or the break point of the vertical portion of the neck and the transverse portion of the submandibular region, increases.

Why is my jawline getting bigger? ›

One primary cause is a naturally large jaw bone, known as the mandible, which can be present from birth or develop due to conditions like acromegaly. Additionally, habits like regularly clenched teeth can contribute to stronger jaw muscles and a wider appearance.

How to stimulate lower jaw growth? ›

A growth promoter is a dental appliance that stimulates the growth of the mandible (lower jaw). It is a removable appliance that children must wear for several hours a day. The activator in orthodontics is intended for patients whose jaws (upper or lower) are too small or too far back in relation to the opposite jaw.

Can you actually increase jaw size? ›

Exercising the neck, chin, jaw, and other facial muscles can lead to subtle changes in your face, including sharper cheekbones and a more prominent jawline. One study found that performing regular facial exercises over the course of 20 weeks led to fuller cheeks and a more youthful appearance.

How to widen your jaw naturally? ›

List of 9 Do-It-Yourself Jawline Exercises
  1. Mewing.
  2. Vowel Sounds.
  3. Opening and Closing the Mouth.
  4. Curl Your Neck up.
  5. Collarbone Backup Exercise.
  6. Platysma Stretches.
  7. Resistance Exercise.
  8. Jaw Flex/Chin Lifts.

What does jutting your jaw mean? ›

If you jut a part of your body, especially your chin, or if it juts, you push it forward in an aggressive or determined way. His jaw jutted stubbornly forward; he would not be denied. Gwen jutted her chin forward, her nose in the air, and did not bother to answer the teacher.

What type of jawline is more attractive? ›

There are certain studies that claim having an obtuse angle jawline combined with a contoured mandible is what is generally desired. Some other studies found that a narrow-angle jawline is often desired. This is true for people of Asian descent where a V-shaped jawline is very popular.

At what age does your face change most? ›

It is also a major factor in the dreaded “turkey neck” caused by sagging skin underneath the neck and vertical bands of muscles loosened by gravity and time. The biggest changes typically occur when people are in their 40s and 50s, but they can begin as early as the mid-30s and continue into old age.

Did jaw size increase? ›

Jaw size has been shrinking since humans first evolved millions of years ago. The reason for this is unclear, but scientists think it could be due to changes in diet. For example, early hominids ate mostly meat, while later ones began eating plants, which caused changes in jaw size.

Will my jawline become more defined if I lose weight? ›

Health hacks for a sharper jawline

You should also maintain a healthy diet low in sugars and fats to support weight loss and potentially enhance the definition of the jawline. Avoiding refined carbs is crucial, as their high consumption can lead to fat storage in the face, resulting in a fuller appearance.


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