Orthognathic Surgery (Jaw Surgery)

Orthognathic surgery is needed when jaws don’t meet correctly and/or teeth don’t seem to fit within the jaw. Teeth are straightened with orthodontics, and corrective jaw surgery repositions a misaligned jaw. This not only improves facial appearance, but also ensures that teeth meet correctly and function properly.

Who Needs Orthognathic Surgery?

People who can benefit from orthognathic surgery include those with an improper bite, or jaws that are positioned incorrectly. 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, speech, or long-term oral health and appearance. Injury to the jaw and birth defects can also affect jaw alignment. Orthodontics alone can correct bite problems when only the teeth are involved. Orthognathic surgery may be required for the jaws when repositioning is necessary.

Difficulty in the following areas should be evaluated:

  • 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. Before any treatment begins, a consultation will be held to perform a complete examination with x-rays. During the pre-treatment consultation process, feel free to ask any questions that you have regarding your treatment. When you are fully informed about the aspects of your care, you and your dental team can make the decision to proceed with treatment together.

Orthognathic Surgery Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of orthognathic surgery, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to orthognathic surgery are discussed.

Technology & Orthognathic Surgery

Proper planning for this type of treatment involves diagnostic work, including photographs, Xrays and models of your teeth. With this information, we can accurately diagnose your jaw size discrepancy and plan your treatment completely. The collection of diagnostic information is usually gathered by both the surgeon and orthodontist.

Our practice uses modern computer techniques and three-dimensional models to show you exactly how your surgery will be approached. Using comprehensive facial x-rays and computer video imaging, we can show you how your bite will be improved, and can predict your facial appearance. This helps you understand the surgical process and the extent of the treatment prescribed. Our goal is to help you understand the benefits of orthognathic surgery.

If you are a candidate for corrective jaw surgery, we will work closely with your dentist and orthodontist during your treatment. The actual surgery can move your teeth and jaws into a new position that results in a more attractive, functional, and healthy dental-facial relationship.

How is the surgery performed?

The vast majority of orthognathic surgery is performed comfortably and safely under general anesthesia, either in the hospital or our office. All incisions are made within the mouth, avoiding any extraoral scarring. Precise cuts are made within the jaw bones in order to allow movement of the tooth bearing portions of the jaws into the correct and stable position. Once the jaws have been properly aligned, they are then stabilized with small titanium plates and screws (pins). This will then allow you to avoid having your jaws wired together; as was done routinely a short time ago.

An average hospitalization would involve one to two days.

What would I expect after my jaw surgery?

You will usually experience facial swelling and bruising following your jaw surgery, which would peak 3-5 days after the procedure. With this swelling you will experience discomfort, usually well controlled with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (Motrin or Tylenol) or common narcotic mixture (Percocet or Vicodin). The majority of this swelling will subside within the first 7-10 days.

You will be limited to a pureed type of diet as directed by a licensed nutritionist for a 4 week period. Normal dietary function would soon follow this.

Your activity level will be limited to non-contact types of behavior for 4 weeks.

Can my insurance cover my surgery?

As treatment for skeletal jaw discrepancies is a medical issue, it is not covered by your dental insurance. It is often a covered benefit, however, under most medical insurances. In order for this to occur, a complete diagnostic evaluation needs to be sent to your medical insurance. Our doctors are extremely experienced with this process and will routinely complete this evaluation so that you may enjoy this insurance benefit.

We understand that this can be an intimidating treatment, but we know that a proper knowledge of the current concepts of orthognathic surgery will alleviate most anxiety.