What Should I Do With My Chin Implant Which Is Eroding Into The Bone?

Q:   I am 72 years old and I had a facelift and chin implant some 20 years ago. (I remember waking up and hearing Sammy Davis Jr. and that Jim Henson Died) Today they say the chin implant is causing erosion of my bone. I am scared and don’t even know where to start. My days of plastic surgeons have passed me as they have all retired. HELP!!!!!!

A: The phenomenon of chin implant erosion or settling into the bone is well known. It can be a natural event that occurs over many years with some chin implant patients. While called an ‘erosion’, that descriptor makes it sound like some aggressive process (implant eating into the bone) and that it is a serious problem. In reality, this phenomenon is nothing more than a normal biologic process to implants in certain locations known as pressure resorption.

You have to think of your body’s tissues as active and flowing, not forever stable and never-changing likes bricks on a wall. Your own bone is that way. Bone is dynamic and it responds to stresses by changing its structure. Calcium constantly flows in and out of bone. But a synthetic implant in the body does not change its structure, its is stable. Therefore, when a chin implant is put on top of the chin bone, it represents a stable non-changing structure between the bone and the overlying muscle. If the chin augmentation is significant, over time, the pushback of the stretched out overlying muscle causes long-term pressure on the implant. Since the implant’s structure can not change, only one thing can…the bone underneath. The pressure is relieved by the bone underneath resorbing allowing the implant to settle somewhat into the bone. While called erosion, this is simple and benign biologic process.

Most likely this was seen and diagnosed on a dental film. Unless the chin is causing you pain or the bone resorption is affecting your lower teeth with pain and sensitivity (both very unlikely), there is no reason to do anything with the chin implant. (unless you want to change it for cosmetic reasons) It is not an active process and the resorption is not ongoing. Once the pressure from the muscle is relieved, the bone resorption is not progressive.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis Indiana