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The Role of the Chin in Profileplasty

 

It is very common that multiple procedures are done on the face at the same time. Whether it be for anti-aging effects or for reshaping a face, combinations of procedures produce more profound changes. This is because the face is made up of many different parts and making significant changes often requires altering more than one facial area.

The benefits of combination facial surgery are commonly seen in nose and chin surgery. Since the nose and chin make up the dominant structures of one’s facial profile, it is not surprise that the combination of rhinoplasty and chin augmentation have become known as a profileplasty. Profileplasty refers to any cosmetic procedure that would improve the appearance of the profile which is an aesthetic and proportionate relationship of the nose, chin and neck. Thus profileplasty is not just rhinoplasty and chin augmentation, although this is the most common one in the young, but also includes a facelift and chin augmentation which is most common in older patients.

It is easy to understand why rhinoplasty can be so important to profile changes as the nose sits at the center of the face. Even very subtle nose changes can be visually appreciated in the profile view. Lowering of the nasal bridge and reshaping the nasal tip in a large nose or augmenting the dorsal line and increasing tip projection in a smaller/flatter nose not only changes the shape of the nose but one’s profile as well.

Just like the nose the chin has an equal, if not greater, impact on one’s profile than even the nose. This is because the chin sits in the middle of the facial profile between the nose and the chin. Whether it is too small or too big, the chin influences the perception of both the nose and the neck. The nose, however, does not influence the appearance of the neck angle and a necklift does not alter the perception of one’s nose shape.

In many patients the best profile changes come from a change in the lower face. Chin surgery can improve facial proportion, creating a better balance between the upper face (forehead, nose and lips) and the neck. As a well known example, even a well shaped nose can seem larger if the face has a smaller chin. Even if some nose changes are done, the more important procedure might be chin augmentation on improving the appearance of the nose.

Chin surgery is often perceived as an augmentative operation but that is a limited view of the different types of available chin surgery. Chin augmentation historically is seen as an increased in horizontal projection, how much forward position of the chin is needed. While this can be done with either an implant to sit on top of the bone or to move the chin bone itself (sliding genioplasty), they change the shape of the chin differently. A chin implant can improve the horizontal projection of the chin but can do little for increasing the length or vertical height of the chin. Often more vertical height is needed when the chin is significantly short. Unlike a chin implant, a sliding genioplasty can not only bring the chin forward but can lengthen or shorten its vertical height as well.

While chin implants have historically lacked the ability for vertical elongation, new chin implants styles will soon be available that provide concurrent vertical lengthening as well. Rather than sitting completely on the bone, these newer designs sit on the ledge of the chin bone (halfway between the front and under edges of the chin bone) to create their effects.

While sliding genioplasties can lengthen the height of the chin, there are limits as to how much the bone can be moved forward. To keep the back of the moved chin bone in contact with the front edge of the fixed chin bone, the amount of bone advancement is usually limited to 10 to 12 mms. Very short chins often need much more than that to achieve an ideal chin position. In these cases a chin implant can be placed on top of the advanced chin bone (implant overlay) to achieve an additional 3mm to 5mms of further horizontal chin projection.

Chin reduction is not as commonly done for profile changes and has a checkered history. The most common chin reduction method is done as an intraoral burring or shaving of the front edge of the chin bone. While simple, it is rarely effective as no more than a few millimeters of bone is reduced and no change occurs in the soft tissue thickness. Often patients complain of seeing no change after this surgery and may even develop some soft tissue redundancy or sagging afterwards. The use of a reverse sliding genioplasty is also ill-advised as, while it does move the whole chin bone back, it pushes the attached soft tissues into the neck creating an undesired bulge.

The most effective chin reductions are done from a submental (under the chin) approach where the bone can be more dramatically reduced in all dimensions if needed and the excess soft tissues excised  and tightened. (tucked) While this does create a scar under the chin, it can remain imperceptible if its length remains curved to parallel the shape of the jawline and it stays within the confines of a vertical line dropped down from the corners of the mouth.

When considering profileplasty, or even an isolated chin augmentation or reduction procedure, the use of computer imaging is critical. It can not only confirm which procedures are beneficial but, more importantly, the magnitude of those desired changes. A plastic surgeon can never really know what ‘flavor’ of change any patient desires and such imaging helps to establish what that is. While computer imaging is never a guarantee as to how the final result will look, it provides a method of visual communication to help the surgeon not guess as to the patient’s profileplasty goals.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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Dr. Barry EppleyDr. Barry Eppley

Dr. Barry Eppley is an extensively trained plastic and cosmetic surgeon with more than 20 years of surgical experience. He is both a licensed physician and dentist as well as double board-certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. This training allows him to perform the most complex surgical procedures from cosmetic changes to the face and body to craniofacial surgery. Dr. Eppley has made extensive contributions to plastic surgery starting with the development of several advanced surgical techniques. He is a revered author, lecturer and educator in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

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