What Is Orthognathic Surgery (Jaw Corrective Surgery)?
Corrective jaw, or orthognathic surgery is performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) to correct a wide range of minor and major skeletal and dental irregularities, including the misalignment of jaws and teeth. This surgery can also help to improve chewing, speaking and breathing. The patient’s appearance may be dramatically enhanced as a result of this surgery.
Following are some of the conditions that may indicate the need for corrective jaw surgery:
- Difficulty chewing, or biting food
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic jaw or jaw joint (TMJ) pain and headache
- Excessive wear of the teeth
- Open bite (space between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed)
- Unbalanced facial appearance from the front, or side
- Facial injury
- Birth defects
- Receding lower jaw and chin
- Protruding jaw
- Inability to make the lips meet without straining
- Chronic mouth breathing
- Sleep apnea (breathing problems when sleeping, including snoring)
This procedure requires the involvement of your dentist, orthodontist and OMS who would all work together to determine whether you are a candidate for corrective jaw, or orthognathic, surgery. The OMS determines which corrective jaw surgical procedure is appropriate and performs the actual surgery. It is important to understand that your treatment, which will probably include orthodontics before and after surgery, may take several years to complete.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Depending on what type of jaw surgery you undergo, you will look significantly different. Your overbite or underbite will be corrected, your chin will be more prominent or less prominent (depending on the type of surgery you desire), and your cheeks and nose may even be improved.
Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, cost depends on the type of surgery. If you are undergoing jaw surgery for medical reasons, you may be able to have the procedure covered by insurance. Cosmetic jaw surgery is not typically covered by insurance, but your doctor will work with you.
Jaw surgery is not a painful procedure. During the surgery, your nerves are numbed, so you do not feel any pain. By the time you regain feeling in your face and chin, most of the pain that would exist is gone. However, some patients do experience some discomfort when sneezing, yawning or coughing during the first few weeks following the surgery.
When you suffer from spitting or lisping when you speak or are unable to chew with all of your teeth, close your mouth fully, or breathe through your mouth, or if you are unhappy with the appearance of your chin and lower face, jaw surgery may be the right option. If you are interested in undergoing jaw surgery, it is important to speak with your doctor and schedule a consultation with a board-certified orthognathic surgeon to discuss whether jaw surgery is the right option for you.
Because diet is restricted during recovery, many patients lose weight following the surgery. However, it is important to make sure you are staying nourished and are taking in enough calories and nutrients during this period.
After the surgery, you will need to follow a liquid diet as prescribed by your surgeon for a couple weeks. Some good items to stock up on for your recovery are shakes and supplements with nutritional value and protein in them. After the liquid diet period has ended, your doctor will prescribe a limited soft foods diet for you to follow, and you will slowly be able to eat whatever feels comfortable to chew until you are able to return to normal eating. It is very important to drink plenty of water each day to ensure hydration.
Length of recovery depends again on the severity of the condition. Patients often report feeling well enough to resume most activities anywhere from one to three weeks following the procedure. Complete jaw surgery recovery usually takes about three to six months. The post-operative period spans about another six months to a year, in which you will have follow-up appointments and after-care instructions from your doctor.
Typically, there is some numbness following jaw surgery because some of the nerves in your chin and face have been moved around, but most patients will regain full feeling in their jaws during recovery.
Typically, you will need to wear braces after jaw surgery for the first few months, and you may have to wear a retainer once the braces are removed. This is to ensure that your teeth and jaw remain in their new positions until your jaw has regained its full strength and movement.