Is Jaw Surgery Necessary?
Those who may benefit from corrective jaw surgery – or orthognathic surgery – include those with an improper bite resulting from misaligned teeth and/or jaws. In some cases, a person’s upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. Injuries and craniofacial anomalies seen at birth may also affect jaw alignment. While orthodontics can usually correct bite problems when only the teeth are misaligned, corrective jaw surgery may be necessary to correct discrepencies of the jaws.
Evaluating the Need for Jaw Surgery
Your orthodontist and oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) will work together to determine whether you might benefit from surgery. The OMS determines which surgical procedures are appropriate and performs the surgery. It is important to understand that your treatment, which will probably include orthodontics before and after surgery, may take a few years to complete. Your OMS and orthodontist understand that this is a significant, long-term commitment for you and your family. They will give you a realistic estimate of the time required for your treatment.
Corrective surgery may reposition all or part of the upper jaw, lower jaw and chin. After you have explored all options, you and your team will determine the treatment plan that is best for you.
What is Involved in Corrective Jaw Surgery?
Orthodontic braces move the teeth into a new position. Because your teeth are being moved into a position that will better fit together after surgery, you may at first think your bite is getting worse rather than better. However, when your OMS repositions your jaws during surgery, your teeth should fit together properly. In some cases, your OMS may recommend dental extractions, including your wisdom teeth, several months before the corrective jaw surgery. As your pre-surgical orthodontic treatment nears completion, additional or updated records – including imaging, photographs and models of your teeth – may be taken to help guide your surgery. Your OMS may use 3D imaging and computer software to virtually plan your surgery beforehand. Surgical software can now be used to create different types of bite guides, surgical cutting guides and even custom-designed surgical plates used during surgery.
Your surgery may be performed under general anesthesia in a hospital, an ambulatory surgical center or OMS office. Surgery may take up to several hours to complete. Your OMS will reposition the jawbones in accordance with your specific needs and plan. In some cases, bone may be added, taken away or reshaped. Surgical plates, screws, wires and rubber bands may be used to hold your jaws in their new positions. A custom-designed plastic splint also may be temporarily attached to your teeth following surgery. Incisions are usually made inside the mouth to reduce visible scarring; however, some cases do require small incisions outside of the mouth.
Your OMS will provide instructions for a healthy, yet modified diet that will include soft foods and liquids. This will help you heal and keep you comfortable during recovery. Your surgeon will provide you with a schedule for transitioning to a normal diet, when appropriate. You should refrain from using tobacco products and avoid strenuous physical activity, including participation in sports. Appropriate oral hygiene is very important following surgery. Discomfort following surgery can be controlled with medication. Patients are generally able to return to work or school from within two to three weeks after surgery, depending on a variety of factors related to their recovery. While the initial healing phase is about six weeks, complete healing of the jaws can take three to six months.
Enjoy the Benefits
Corrective jaw surgery moves your teeth and jaws into positions that are more balanced, functional and healthy. Although the goal of this surgery is to improve your bite and function, some patients also experience enhancements to their appearance and speech. The results of corrective jaw surgery can have a dramatic and positive effect on many aspects of your life.