Jaw Orthognathic Surgery
At a Glance
Orthognathic surgery is needed when jaws don't meet correctly and/or teeth don't seem to fit with jaws. Jaw surgery is needed when a patient has:
- Difficulty in chewing, biting or swallowing
- Speech problems
- Chronic jaw or TMJ pain
- Open bite
- Protruding jaw
- Breathing problems
Any of these symptoms can exist at birth, be acquired after birth as a result of hereditary or environmental influences, or as a result of trauma to the face. Orthognathic surgery is a surgical process that aligns the upper and lower jaw.
Why consider this procedure
Jaw (Orthognathic) surgery not only improves facial appearance by balancing out the face, but also ensures that teeth meet correctly and function properly. Jaw growth is a gradual process and in some instances, the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. The result can be a host of problems that can affect chewing function, breathing difficulties, speech issues, and lead to jaw pain or headaches. Even if symptoms aren’t present today doesn’t mean that symptoms may not appear later on. Orthodontics can correct bite problems only when the teeth are involved, but not when the jaw is misaligned.
What to anticipate before the procedure
Your initial visit will include a review of your health history, pertinent x-rays, a thorough oral exam, and diagnosis/treatment planning. The Surgeon will use advanced computer techniques to show you 3-dimensional models of what your jaw and face look like today, and what you can expect after the surgery is completed and the patient heals. Should you choose to schedule treatment, the details of your surgery and anesthesia options will be explained. Your Oral Surgeon will review Orthognathic Surgery pre- and post-operative care instructions with you. This procedure is performed in a hospital under general anesthesia, and a patient can expect to stay one to two nights.
What to anticipate during procedure
What type of adjustment to the jaw is necessary will be based on your unique situation. Sometimes, only the upper and/or lower jaw is moved forward or back, and sometimes the jaw will be shortened or lengthened vertically. If the lower jaw is to be moved, the bone behind the teeth is separated, and the tooth-bearing portion will be moved forward or backward to achieve the desired bite. Incisions are usually made inside the mouth to avoid any incisions on the outside that could leave unsightly scars.
What to anticipate after procedure
Having jaw surgery represents a long-term commitment by the patient. It requires time to recover as the body begins to heal itself. Swelling and bruising can be expected. Lips may be chafed, stretched, or swollen after as the procedure is done through the mouth. Post-operative discomfort usually lasts 3-5 days after surgery, and will gradually reduce over the following few weeks. Patients will also experience nasal blockage for a few days to several weeks. Most patients return to work after about a week. Typically, a patient will be put on a liquid or “non-chew” diet immediately after surgery, and be put on a regular diet after 6-8 weeks.
In some cases, screws can be used to immobilize the jaw for a few days, while in other cases the jaw will be immobilized for several weeks. Some cases experience nerve pain, tingling, or numbness in the lip, chin, gums, teeth or tongue that is usually temporary. As the upper jaw is very close to the sinus cavity, sometimes sinus infections can result.
Once initial healing has occurred, the patient will need to visit their orthodontist to refine the teeth position to finish the correct bite per the original treatment plan. Final results can be anticipated approximately 12 months after surgery.