Can A Jaw Angle Implant Be Used To Give My Jaw Better Shape After A Fibular Free Flap Reconstruction?

Q: I have a problem with the shape of one side of my jaw. I had a fibular free flap surgery done several years ago as a result of an osteosarcoma tumor that was removed from my right bottom mandible. I have since recovered nicely from surgery and I now have dental implants. However, one thing that bothers me from the surgery is that my right bottom mandible is not in alignment with my left bottom mandible. My left mandible is defined and square whereas my right mandible is “heart-shaped.” Side pictures of me are especially embarrassing as well as the stares I get from strangers. What can be done to give me a more normal shape to the reconstructed side of my mandible?

A: Having dental implants placed into a mandible reconstructed with a fibular free flap suggests that you have had a very successful outcome. It takes good bone stock and alignment of the reconstructed jaw segment to the upper jaw to be able to get such dental reconstruction. I suspect that the deformity to which you refer is that you have no defined angle of the mandible on the reconstructed side. This can happen due to the take-off of the fibular graft from the ramus of the mandible. The joining of the fibular bone flap and the remaining mandibular ramus forms a new jaw angle. If this is not done at a 75 to 90 degree angulation, the jaw angle will be blunted or more obtuse. This can be confirmed by a panorex dental film, which you undoubtably have from your dental implant reconstruction, which shows the entire mandible and its shape from side to side quite clearly. This could be improved by the simple placement of a jaw angle implant. This would be best done through your existing neck incisions.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana