Did you know that orthodontists often work closely with surgeons? Sometimes a jaw alignment problem can’t be fully treated by braces or orthodontic devices alone, so – in rare and complex cases – surgery is needed to make the jaw and mouth functional and comfortable. Here’s a guide to some of the different types of jaw surgery and what they are used to correct.
When is jaw surgery needed?
Jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, is used in more complex jaw alignment cases and may be part of an overall treatment plan for patients who have:
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Speech issues
- An inability to close their lips with their teeth together/mouth breathing
- Facial trauma/injury
- Sleep apnoea (snoring resulting from obstruction of the airway)
- Chronic (long-term) pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- Bite issues such as an open bite, protruding lower jaw, or receding lower jaw
- Improper jawbone development
- Jaw alignment issues from a congenital health condition
- Tumour removal
Do children need jaw surgery?
In the event of a tumour or injury to the jaw, surgery may be recommended. However, most of the time orthognathic surgery should wait until the child has finished growing – around 14-16 for girls and 17-21 for boys.
While that is the case, parents should bring their children in for an orthodontic check-up at 6-7 years old. This is because there are orthodontic issues that are much easier to fix at an early age while your child’s still growing. Getting an early orthodontic evaluation and treatment may help your child avoid jaw surgery altogether as the orthodontist may be able to use other non-surgical treatments to correct their jaw alignment.
Different types of jaw surgery
There are several types of orthognathic surgery, and the one most suited to your jaw alignment issue will be recommended by your orthodontist, in consultation with the surgeon. The jaws are repositioned into the desired position and secured in the correct position using surgical screws and plates. They work from inside the mouth to ensure you have no outward scarring and to create a functional and attractive result. These types of jaw surgery include:
- Maxillary osteotomy – This is surgery for your upper jaw (your maxilla), and it can be used to correct an over or underbite, a crossbite, or an open bite. It is also used to correct midfacial hyperplasia, a condition where the middle section of the face is under-proportion.
- Mandibular osteotomy – Here, the surgery is performed on your lower jaw, called your mandible. It is usually recommended when the lower jaw protrudes or recedes significantly.
- Bimaxillary osteotomy – For conditions that affect both the upper and lower jaw, they can both be operated on in this procedure. This allows the surgeon to reposition both jaws to get a perfect alignment and facial symmetry and is a fairly common procedure as jaw alignment issues often affect both jaws.
Another surgery called genioplasty may also be recommended. This isn’t jaw surgery – instead, the surgeon operates to correct the chin to give it the right size and shape for your face and jaw. It is usually recommended when you have bimaxillary or mandibular surgery, as these surgeries can change the shape of the lower jaw area.
What to expect before and after jaw surgery
Any surgery has risks, but jaw surgery offers a very effective way to correct alignment issues to not only make it easy to speak and eat, but also promote good oral health and alleviate painful problems and oral health risks. In addition, this surgery is unnoticeable after it has healed, other than experiencing the alignment benefits and a more symmetrical facial structure.
Before your surgery, your orthodontist will take you through the entire process and answer all your questions – please don’t be afraid to ask something, it’s your mouth and our speciality!
All cases are different, but generally speaking, orthognathic surgery takes place under general anaesthetic in a hospital or surgical clinic over a few hours. You will have to stay over for 2-4 days after the surgery so that your recovery is monitored, and you have access to medication and support.
Healing does take quite a long time, with patients experiencing general healing in 6 weeks and being fully healed in 12 weeks. During this time, it is very important to follow your surgeon’s instructions, which will include plenty of rest and fluids, certain medications, how to keep your mouth clean, what to eat, and avoiding strenuous activity. You can expect some bruising, tenderness, and discomfort after the surgery, but you will have medications to help manage this.
Most people do require time off work and school, returning around 1-3 weeks after surgery or as your orthodontist recommends.
Can all orthodontists do jaw surgery?
To be able to evaluate a patient and perform orthognathic surgery, you will need to see an orthodontist who works closely with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.
The good news is that you can book a free consultation for an adult or child at our friendly orthodontic clinic in Frankston to have a jaw alignment evaluation and discuss treatment options! We will refer you to our inhouse Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon if it is required.
And because we believe that access to this type of healthcare is so important, we work with DentiCare Payment Solutions to offer payment plans that make orthodontics affordable for all.
Contact us today.