Whether they result from a recent injury or have been affecting you for your entire life, jaw problems can impact your health, oral hygiene, and even your opinion of yourself. You may struggle with symptoms that restrict your breathing. You may also find it difficult to speak clearly or chew properly. In addition to physical issues, the effect on your appearance can also be disheartening. This is especially true if you’ve been dealing with jaw abnormalities for a very long time.
We believe in educating our patients on the procedures and surgeries we perform. Not only does this ease your anxieties, it also ensures a smooth process during and after the procedure. This guide explains a few important points, so you can enter into your jaw surgery fully informed.
What Is Orthognathic Surgery?
Also called corrective jaw surgery, orthognathic procedures fix abnormalities of the upper or lower jaw. The first corrective jaw surgery was performed in 1849, and the procedure has evolved greatly since then. These days, oral surgeons are capable of correcting significant issues related to bite and positioning, which offers numerous benefits to patients.
While orthodontic procedures using braces can address a wide range of bite problems (such as under and overbites), more severe deficiencies must be corrected with surgery. In some cases, both surgical procedures and orthodontics can be used in conjunction for the biggest benefit.
What Are the Benefits of Corrective Jaw Surgery?
When the jaw is not in proper alignment, it can lead to multiple health issues. Misalignment can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition where a person wakes up multiple times during the night due to obstructed breathing. It can also aggravate the temporomandibular joint, which then leads to chronic jaw pain and stiffness. Eating also becomes more difficult with jaw misalignment. Some people experience problems the chewing and swallowing, which can then affect digestion.
Corrective surgery addresses the above symptoms for a major improvement in eating, sleeping, and more. When teeth are out of alignment, abnormal wear patterns can occur. Surgery prevents abnormal wear, which also helps patients avoid future dental procedures, such as crows or fillings. Additionally, jaw surgery also improves the quality of your dental care, as it can be hard to properly brush and floss when there are alignment abnormalities.
Jaw misalignment can also affect a person’s confidence level and self-esteem. In this case, the cosmetic benefits of jaw surgery are often life-changing. Many patients experience a boost in confidence once the procedure is complete, which can greatly improve their quality of life.
What Can I Expect During the Procedure?
Your oral surgeon will make incisions inside your mouth to move the jaw into the correct position. Where these incisions occur usually depends on the type of procedure being performed (see the section below). While it’s less common, your doctor might also need to make incisions around the mouth as well.
During the surgery, doctors move bones into new positions to realign the jaw. Once the bones have been repositioned, they are held together using steel plates and wires until they are fully healed. Screws are also used to set the jaw, and these will eventually fuse with the bone for added support.
Other procedures require the oral surgeon to add new bone to the jaw, such as when the jaw is receding. Bone can be taken from different areas of your body, including your leg or rib. Existing bone can also be reshaped to achieve the correct alignment and facial structure.
Are There Different Types of Jaw Surgery?
There are three types of corrective procedures that focus on the jaw:
- Upper Jaw: Upper jaw procedures move the top jaw forward to properly align it with the bottom jaw. This surgery is used to correct recession or protrusion of the upper jaw, open bites, cross bites, and cosmetic issues affecting how much or little of your teeth are visible when your smile.
- Lower Jaw: Lower jaw surgery is very similar to upper jaw procedures, except that it addresses abnormalities of the bottom jaw. This includes recession and protrusion of the lower jaw. Your surgeon will reposition the bones in your lower jaw to match the alignment of the top jaw.
- Chin: If you’re dealing with a significantly recessive bottom jaw, your oral surgeon may also recommend an additional chin procedure. This surgery is used to address cosmetic issues and restore your appearance.
Is Orthognathic Surgery Painful?
Use of general anesthetic ensures that patients experience no pain while the surgery is taking place. Like most other surgical procedures, swelling and discomfort is common after orthognathic surgery. These effects will naturally resolve over the course of weeks. Your doctor can also recommend or prescribe pain medication to control symptoms.
Who Needs Corrective Jaw Surgery?
Oral surgeons recommend these procedures for many reasons. Injuries caused by sports or car accidents can sometimes cause the jaw to become misaligned. The problem can also occur naturally as the jaw develops during childhood. In either case, you may experience symptoms like problems speaking, difficulty chewing, persistent jaw pain, breathing issues, and a lower jaw that protrudes outwards or recedes backwards. In addition to assessing your symptoms, your doctor will also perform a thorough exam to make sure you’re a good candidate for jaw surgery.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
Possible risks include jaw pain, misaligned bite, infection, injury to the nerves, and jaw fracture. You may also require future procedures if the jaw reverts to its original position. Some patients require additional root canal surgery to address damaged teeth. All surgical procedures entail some risk, but your oral surgeon will strive to avoid any possible complications and poor outcomes.
What Happens During Recovery and Aftercare?
While every patient is different, it usually takes between six and twelve weeks to recover from jaw surgery. Following your doctors post-operative instructions closely ensures a smooth and efficient recovery process. While you can resume some activities as soon as you feel up to it, anticipate a one to three week absence from work. Avoid exercise and vigorous physical activities for at least three weeks.
You’ll be put on a liquid diet during the days immediately following the surgery. From there, you’ll be asked to eat soft foods for up to six weeks. Carefully brush your teeth after eating to keep up on dental care. You can also swish with a saltwater rinse several times a day. Saltwater has natural anti-bacterial properties, but it can also reduce swelling and discomfort.
What Are the Next Steps?
If you believe corrective jaw surgery can vastly improve your life, we’re here to support you. We will assess any symptoms you’re experiencing and perform a thorough examination. From there, we will discuss your surgical options, make recommendations, and perform the procedure in our clinic.
We strive to make patients feel as comfortable as possible, both during and after the procedure. We’ll also guide you through the recovery process and address any complications, should they arise. Contact our office today for more information. We look forward to speaking with you.