Corrective Jaw Surgery

Understanding Orthognathic Surgery

The simplest definition of orthognathic surgery is “a corrective surgery that moves one or both jawbones to a new position.” The surgery is most often performed to correct a misaligned jaw preventing the teeth from meeting properly. In most cases, corrective jaw surgery is part of a treatment plan that includes orthodontic straightening of the teeth.

Who is a Candidate for Jaw Surgery?

Anyone with a misaligned jaw or improper bite can benefit from orthognathic surgery. The upper and lower jawbone may grow at different rates, leading to problems with the teeth not meeting correctly. Some people develop an underbite or overbite that negatively affects eating, speaking, breathing, and appearance. While orthodontics can correct crooked teeth, oral surgery is required if the jaw needs repositioning.

Patients need to be healthy and free of infection for orthognathic surgery. They must also commit to a long process with extensive recovery times. Orthodontics and orthognathic surgeries may require two or three years to complete the treatment plan for some patients.

What Ailments Can Orthognathic Surgery Treat?

There are a surprising number of ailments caused by a misaligned jaw, most of which can be corrected with jaw surgery, including:

  • Underbite
  • Overbite
  • Crossbite
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
  • Cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Damage to the jawbone from a traumatic injury
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Cosmetic issues of the face and jaw

What to Expect from the Jaw Surgery Process

Orthognathic surgery is a lengthy and complex process involving several steps. We work with you and your orthodontist to develop a treatment plan that addresses all relevant problems and meets your expectations. At an initial consultation, one of our doctors will take your medical history and perform a dental and jaw examination. They may take x-rays, 3D digital images, computed tomography (CT) scans, photographs of your teeth and jaw, and make impressions of your teeth.

We work closely with your orthodontist, who will prepare your teeth for your new jawline. Some patients need braces before and after surgery. This may include removing some teeth and putting braces on others. Throughout the process, we confer with the orthodontist to ensure each team member is working toward a result that improves oral health and enhances your appearance.

Orthognathic surgery is performed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. You may have to stay overnight or for up to four days following surgery to be monitored appropriately. Your recovery at home will take several months, although you will be able to return to work within a week or less. Although we customize the process to each patient, certain milestones are typical of most jaw surgeries.

During surgery, a plastic splint is placed in your mouth to train your mouth muscles to work with your new jaw alignment. At first, you will need to wear this except when eating or brushing your teeth. This can cause aching as the muscles and ligaments stretch in new ways. For most patients, the splint is needed for several months following surgery.

Expect swelling and some discomfort after the surgery, which can be alleviated with medication and ice packs in the first 24 hours. You will sleep with your head elevated to minimize swelling. You may also be prescribed an antibiotic to prevent infection.

Braces are worn for several months after surgery. Once they are removed, you wear a retainer to ensure your teeth stay in their new position. In most cases, you wear the retainer all the time (except for eating and brushing your teeth) for a year following surgery. This is followed by a few years of wearing the retainer at night.

Dr. Chandran will clearly outline your treatment plan so that you know what to expect and how long the process will take. We want the entire process of jaw surgery to give you the best possible results with the least amount of pain and upset to your lifestyle.

Signs You May Need Orthognathic Surgery

The following difficulties may need to be evaluated by your dentist or one of our oral surgeons to determine whether jaw surgery can benefit you:

  • Speech problems
  • TMJ pain or chronic jaw pain
  • A crooked bite
  • Protruding jaw
  • Difficulty biting, chewing, or swallowing
  • Frequently drooling
  • Difficulty breathing

If jaw surgery has been recommended to treat dental problems or jaw misalignment, contact our office today for a consultation. We will review the entire process with you and help you determine if orthognathic surgery is the right choice for you.