About Orthognathic (Jaw) Surgery

Orthognathic comes from the Greek words orthos, meaning “straight,” and gnathos, meaning “jaw.” Orthognathic surgery (AKA jaw surgery) is a type of corrective jaw surgery that treats conditions of the jaw bones and face. This type of surgery aims to improve the function and appearance of the jaws and teeth. 

Surgery can be used to correct birth defects of the jaw, trauma-related injuries to the jaw, or other jaw developmental problems that occur as a result of the natural aging process. You will require a consultation with an Orthodontist and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon if you require jaw surgery. In most cases, orthodontic braces are used to align the teeth prior to jaw surgery.

Orthognathic surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia. Incisions are usually made inside the mouth to minimize visible scarring. Patient’s jaws are usually not wired together after surgery.

Maxillary and Mandibular

There are two basic types of jaw surgery: maxillary surgery and mandibular surgery. Maxillary surgery involves repositioning the upper jaw, while mandibular surgery involves repositioning the lower jaw.

Orthognathic surgery offers many benefits, including improved jaw function, an enhanced facial appearance, and improved speech and chewing ability. It also enhances breathing, and for some sleep apnea patients, it can improve their breathing so they don’t have to wear a CPAP at night.

Congenital Jaw Problems

Orthognathic surgery can correct several congenital and developmental jaw problems, including individuals with an improper bite. Common conditions include

  • Underbite: When the lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw and teeth overlap
  • Overbite: The upper jaw extends too far forward, causing a gap between the front teeth
  • Crossbite: When some of your top or bottom teeth don’t align properly
  • Cleft lip or palate: The lip or palate (roof of the mouth) does not completely form at birth
  • Facial Asymmetry: When the facial bones and lower jaw bones do not develop symmetrically causing abnormal facial balance.

Injuries and Conditions

Orthognathic surgery can also be used to address injuries and conditions related to the jaw, including

  • Fractures of the jaw or jaw joint: Orthognathic surgery can help realign the jaw and restore jaw function following a serious injury or facial trauma.
  • Tumors of the mouth: Surgery is required to remove tumors that occur in the jaw, including benign tumors like osteomas and cysts. Orthognathic surgery may also be combined with other treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, to address more serious tumors.
  • TMJ disorders: Surgery can be used to address issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) also known as the jaw joint. TMJ disorders can lead to pain and inflammation and problems with biting and chewing. Realigning the jaws and establishing a stable bite can help to decrease stress on the TMJ.

Sleep Apnea and Jaw surgery

Jaw surgery can also treat sleep apnea, a condition that causes loud snoring and disrupted sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway, preventing air from flowing into the lungs. This can cause oxygen levels to drop, leading to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Orthognathic surgery can help open up the airway and improve sleep apnea symptoms.

Before we recommend surgery to treat sleep apnea, an oral surgeon will conduct a comprehensive examination of your face and throat region. You may also be asked to have a sleep study to assess the degree of your problem.

The Surgery Process

Orthognathic surgery requires careful planning and execution. Your surgeon will conduct a thorough examination of your mouth, teeth, and jaw and take x-rays, photos, and scanning your teeth and bite to create a detailed surgical plan. Splints are fabricated to act as surgical guides during the jaw surgery. These splints are digitally fabricated after a virtual surgery treatment plan to determine the best way to reposition your jaw(s) during surgery.

What Materials Are Used?

Titanium screws and plates are typically used to secure the jawbone in place. These materials are strong and durable, allowing your jaw to heal properly after surgery. 

Can I Be Allergic?

Allergic reactions to titanium plates and screws are extremely rare. We have not seen any reported cases in our practice. However, you should let your surgeon know if you have any allergies before surgery so they can take the proper precautions as necessary. Always ask your surgeon about other potential side effects or complications that may arise following surgery.

Anesthesia

Orthognathic surgery is a complex procedure that usually requires general anesthesia, so you will be given an anesthetic to keep you asleep and pain-free. Refer to our Anesthesia Guidelines for further info.

Recovery Time

Jaw surgery is a major surgical procedure so you can expect a fairly lengthy recovery period. Most patients start to feel good after 2-3 weeks for minor surgeries and 4-6 weeks for more complex cases. It will take some time for the bones and soft tissue in your mouth to heal properly. You will likely experience some swelling and bruising around your jaws and face during this time. You may also have some difficulty speaking and eating. It is important to follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully to ensure proper healing.

The Risks

Orthognathic surgery is a safe and effective procedure, but like all surgical procedures, it does come with some risks. The most common complication is bleeding. Numbness is expected postoperatively and usually resolves over several months. In some instances, numbness may not resolve entirely, causing some altered sensation.

Is It Expensive?

Many insurance providers consider corrective jaw surgery to be medically necessary and often provide coverage for the procedures. We can help you determine your benefits by submitting a letter of predetermination of benefits on your behalf. If you do not have medical insurance we can provide options for financial assistance and negotiated fees.

Don’t Suffer In Silence

If you are suffering from a jaw or facial injury or experiencing chronic problems with your jaw, mouth, or teeth, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our skilled oral surgeons will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you achieve the results you need and regain optimal oral health. Come see us today and start living your best life.