Understanding Corrective Jaw Surgery

jaw pain

Jaw surgery can not only correct a wide range of skeletal and dental irregularities, including poor jaw and teeth alignment, it can dramatically improve chewing, speaking and breathing, along with one’s appearance.

This type of surgery can be done any time after growth stops, at ages 14 to 16 for girls and ages 17 to 21 for boys. It can involve the upper or lower jaw, chin or one or more of these.

If you are experiencing any of the conditions below, you may be a candidate for jaw surgery:

  • Trouble chewing, biting or swallowing
  • Recurring jaw pain or headaches
  • Excessive tooth wear
  • An open bite, where there is a space between your top and bottom teeth when you close your mouth
  • Your face looks out of balance
  • Birth defect or injury
  • Receding or protruding jaw
  • Difficulty putting your lips together
  • Mouth breathing or sleep apnea

Common Jaw Surgeries

  • Open Bite

In this surgery, some bone in the upper-tooth jaw is taken out. The upper jaw is then with plates and screws.

  • Protruding Lower Jaw

To pull the jaw back, bone in the rear jaw is separated from the front portion and modified.

  • Receding Lower Jaw

To add space, the bone in the lower jaw is separated from its base and modified. The lower-tooth jaw and a portion of the chin are moved forward.

The Jaw Surgery Process

Working together, your orthodontist and oral surgeon will put together a treatment plan, which may involve X-rays, and photos or models of your teeth.

Most people are fitted with braces before surgery to get the teeth into optimal alignment. You may need to wear the braces for 12-18 months. 3D computerized tomography scanning, computer-guided treatment preparation and temporary anchoring tools may help move your teeth to shorten your braces period.

Some situations require reshaping teeth, covering teeth with crowns, or both. Occasionally, these steps make jaw surgery unnecessary.

Most of the time, there are not visible scars from jaw surgery, as the surgery is performed inside the mouth.

In the surgery, under general anesthesia, the jawbones will be cut and moved into proper positions. The bones are then secured, as needed, with small bone plates, screws, wires and/or rubber bands. These fasteners — smaller than braces brackets — merge into the bone structure over time.

When new bone is needed, it can be taken from your rib, leg or hip. In Some cases, existing jawbone can be restructured to fit correctly.

Jaw Surgery Recovery

When you are released from the office or hospital, you will be given instructions regarding what to eat, how to brush and floss, activities to avoid, and medications for pain.

You will probably be able to return to regular activities in a few weeks, but initial jaw healing ordinarily takes a month of more. It will be an additional 4-6 weeks before you are completely healed.

After preliminary healing, you will probably get braces again to finish lining up your teeth. Once the braces are taken off, retainers may be needed to hold your teeth in position.

Our patients have been amazed at the results of jaw surgery. But from beginning to end, the process can take years. So before you make a decision, it is important to understand the commitment involved.