Sometimes jaw problems may require more than orthodontic treatment. Jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic (or-thog-NATH-ik) surgery, can be a great choice for moderate to severe jaw issues. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (OMS) are specially trained in orthognathic surgery that can dramatically improve chewing, speaking, breathing, and in the process enhance a patient’s appearance. If you are considering orthognathic surgery, here are some important things to know.
Why You May Need It. Most conditions that require corrective surgery are the result of abnormal growth of the jaws as they develop. These conditions are often inherited. Other less common causes are facial injury or arthritis of the jaw joints.
Orthognathic surgery may be indicated for the following conditions:
-Difficulty biting, chewing or swallowing food
-Excessive wear or breakdown of teeth
-Chronic jaw or jaw joint pain caused by TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) or other jaw problems
-Improve “gummy” smiles, where the lips don’t fully close and show large areas of the gums or “toothless” smiles, where the lips cover all of the teeth
-Facial imbalance, including underbites, overbites, crossbites, and deficient chins
Treatment Team. While we will plan and perform the actual surgery, we will also be working with your dentist and orthodontist for the full course of treatment. Most treatment includes braces for 9 to 18 months before surgery to level and align your teeth. After your jaw heals from surgery, which typically takes about 6 weeks, your orthodontist will finish your alignment and remove the braces. Depending on the severity of your jaw problem, the entire treatment process can take from 12 to 24 months. We know that this is a long-term commitment and we will do our best to minimize the length of treatment and provide you with the best estimates of what will be required.
What to Expect. Jaw surgery can be performed on the upper jaw, lower jaw or both. It is best to perform the surgery after growth stops, usually ages 13 to 15 for females and 16 to 18 for males. Jaw surgery usually can be performed entirely inside your mouth, so no facial scars show. Once your jaws are properly aligned, screws and bone plates secure the bones into their new position. In some cases, extra bone may be added to the jaw. In this case, we transfer the bone from your hip, leg or rib and secure it with temporary wires.
Surgery can take place in an in-patient or outpatient setting, depending on the procedure required. Facial swelling, while variable, is common and increases for a couple of days following surgery before it subsides. More subtle changes in your appearance will continue for up to a year. For this reason, our students generally choose to have the surgery during school vacations. For adults, one to three weeks is usually required before returning to work.
Jaw surgery can enhance your comfort, appearance, and improve your overall health. We are here to answer any questions you have. Please make an appointment for a consultation so we can review the potential of this life changing treatment with you!