May 12, 2011 — -- What did Bristol Palin go through to get that face?
This week, Sarah Palin's eldest daughter revealed that her slimmer, more angular facade is the result of "corrective jaw surgery" -- "not plastic surgery" -- that she underwent last December.
"It improved the way I look, but this surgery was necessary for medical reasons ... so my jaw and teeth could properly realign. ... I don't obsess over my face," Palin, 20, told Us Weekly magazine.
"I am absolutely thrilled with the results," she added. "I look older, more mature, and don't have as much of a chubby, little baby face!"
Getting rid of that "chubby, little baby face" may have cost as much as $10,000 and required months of recovery. One surgeon said that if Palin indeed went under the knife to fix her teeth, she likely had a mandibular osteotomy, a procedure in which the lower jaw is broken and realigned. (Insurance sometimes covers the surgery, but not always.)
"It's a big, brutal surgery that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," said Dr. Tony Youn, a Michigan-based plastic surgeon and the author of "In Stitches." Youn had a mandibular osteotomy at age 17 because his jaw "was so big, I couldn't bite into an apple."
"It's a very painful surgery," he said. "I had my jaw wired shut for six weeks to allow that bone to heal. I was on a liquid diet for six weeks."
A prescription for a liquid or soft foods diet could explain Palin's slimmer figure, which she debuted at the White House Correspondent's Dinner last month. In a photo from January, Palin still sported a full face, but an interview shot in February showed her new chin beginning its outward progression.
A mandibular osteotomy also would be in line with Palin's assertion that she did not have plastic surgery. Youn said oral surgeons often perform the procedure.
Other surgeons wonder if a jaw alignment was all Palin had done.
"She definitely got neck lipo," said Dr. John Millard, a plastic surgeon based in Colorado. "Either that or she's lost 30 pounds."
"You would never get that type of aesthetic improvement by just repositioning the jaw," said Dr. Steve Colen, chairman of plastic surgery at the Hackensack University Medical Center. "Her claim that it was just functional sounds like a little bit of a cover up."
Colen suggested that Palin may have had a genioplasty -- "it's like a chin implant made out of your own bone" -- in addition to or instead of getting her jaw repositioned. He questioned whether a corrective jaw procedure was warranted at all.
"From the pictures that I saw, it looked like if she did have an overbite or an underbite, it wasn't something that needed to be treated with surgery," he said. "She could have done that with braces."
A genioplasty, which is considered a cosmetic procedure, can cost between $3,000 and $5,000. Palin likely has the money to pay for these surgeries and more -- the single mom has made more than $330,000 since 2009 for lecturing about teen pregnancy prevention and she's signed on to star in her own reality TV series with brothers Kyle and Christopher Massey.
But was it worth it?
"I think, frankly, her chin is too prominent," said Millard. "She looks a little bit like Jim Carrey in 'Me, Myself and Irene.'"