Jaw Surgery: All the Essentials You Need to Know
Also known as orthognathic surgery, jaw surgery is done to correct any irregularities of the jaw bones. Jaw surgery also involves realigning the teeth and the jaw to enhance the way they work. Corrections that are done through jaw surgery can also significantly improve the appearance of the face.
For those with jaw problems that can’t be resolved through orthodontics, jaw surgery is considered the corrective alternative. In many cases, braces are placed on the teeth prior to the surgery and during recovery from the procedure. Often, the braces remain until the alignment and healing have been completed.
Orthodontists can work with oral and maxillofacial (jaw and face) surgeons to determine the best treatment plan. Jaw surgery is recommended after growth has stopped (typically, this occurs around 14 to 16 years old for females and around 17 to 21 years old for males.
Jaw Surgery: Why It’s Done
There are various reasons why jaw surgery is carried out. Some of the reasons include:
- To ensure chewing and biting is easier
- To improve overall chewing
- To provide some much-needed relief from obstructive sleep apnea
- To repair birth defects or facial injuries
- To correct speech or swallowing problems
- To reduce excessive teeth breakdown
- To improve the ability of the lips to close comfortably
- To help relieve pain caused by TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders
- To correct facial asymmetry (imbalance)
- To correct crossbites, overbites, underbites, and small chins
- To correct jaw closure or bite fit issues (i.e., when the molars touch but the front teeth won’t)
Jaw Surgery Risks
Generally, this procedure is considered safe when done by seasoned oral and maxillofacial surgeons. The procedure is often done with the help of orthodontists. Some of the known jaw surgery risks include:
- Losing a portion/part of the jaw
- Blood loss
- Needing root canal therapy (on some/selected teeth)
- Nerve injury
- Need for additional/further surgery
- Jaw fracture
- Jaw joint pain
- Bite fit problems
- Jaw relapse (to the original position)
After jaw surgery, many patients report experiencing the following:
- A short adjustment to the new appearance of the face
- Eating problems (can be addressed with the help of a dietitian)
What to Expect Before, During, and After the Procedure
Jaw surgery is done under general anesthesia. The procedure is done in the hospital and will typically require a two to four-day stay.
Often, surgery is done inside the mouth so no facial scars are evident on the jaw, chin, or around the mouth. However, in some cases, small incisions outside the mouth may be required. The surgeon will create cuts in the jawbones before moving it to the right position.
After completing the jaw movement, wires, screws, rubber bands, and tiny bone plates may be used to ensure the bones are secured in their new position. The screws used can also become integrated into the structure of the bone over time. When needed, extra bone may be added to the jaw.
Surgeons also have the option to transfer the bone from the rib, leg, or hip and secure it using screws and plates. In other instances, the bone might need to be reshaped to ensure a better fit. Jaw surgery can be done on the chin, lower and upper jaw or a combination of the three.
After jaw surgery, you will be given a comprehensive set of instructions to adhere to so you can heal faster. Usually, you will be given guidance and instructions on the following important areass:
- What you can eat
- What you should avoid
- When you should return to school or work
- What your oral hygiene should look like
- Activities you should avoid
- Medications you can take to manage the pain and discomfort