Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery, is performed to correct malocclusion, as well as a wide range of facial and dental problems caused by misalignment of the jaws and teeth. Such misalignments can interfere with normal chewing, speaking, or even breathing. While orthognathic surgery is commonly performed to correct functional problems, it may also be performed for cosmetic reasons.
Reasons for Orthognathic Surgery
Candidates for orthognathic surgery are those with an irregular bite resulting from misaligned teeth or jaws. These misalignments may be the result of birth defects or traumatic injuries. Reasons patients may require orthognathic surgery include:
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or biting
- Chronic jaw pain (TMJ)
- Protruding jaw
- Deficient or receding chin
- Sleep apnea
- Speech problems
In rare cases, when common symptoms, such as dry mouth or snoring, become extreme, jaw surgery may be considered.
Orthognathic Surgery Procedure
Normally, patients are fitted with braces prior to surgery to align the teeth so that the bite will be correct after surgery. During surgery, surgical pins are threaded through a slot in the orthodontic brackets to enable the surgeon to secure the teeth. The braces are not removed before the surgical procedure.
Orthognathic surgery restructures the jaw by cutting through and repositioning bones. The surgeon repositions the jawbones depending on the patient's specific needs. In some cases, bone may be added, removed or reshaped. Surgical plates, screws and wires may be used to hold the jaw in the new position.
Recovery from Orthognathic Surgery
In most cases, teeth are straightened with orthodontics after corrective jaw surgery. Orthognathic surgery allows for the repositioning of teeth and facial bones to create a jaw that works and functions properly, as well as having a more natural appearance. While preliminary recovery from this surgery may take several weeks, complete healing usually takes up to one year.
Some swelling and numbness of the surgical site and the lips is normal after surgery. These symptoms typically subside over time.
It is important that both the patient and close family and friends are made aware that the dramatic change in appearance will occur gradually. It may take many months before the patient's appearance shows the anticipated improvement. It is normal for the patient to experience some depression during the healing period because of this delay in facial improvement and the restricted diet prescribed during the aftermath of the procedure.
Risks of Orthognathic Surgery
While orthognathic surgery is quite safe, risks are inherent in any type of surgical procedure. Possible complications of an orthognathic operation may include:
- Excessive post-operative bleeding
- Nerve damage resulting in numbness or spasm
- Temporomandibular joint disorder
- Post-surgical infection
Although rare, in some very few cases the patient may experience a relapse significant enough to require a second surgical correction.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine