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Orthognathic Surgery

What is surgical orthodontics?

Just as orthodontics repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities to improve the patient’s ability to chew, speak, and breathe and for improved facial appearances.

In other words, surgical orthodontics straightens your jaw. Moving the jaws also moves the teeth, so braces are always applied in conjunction with jaw correction. This helps make sure teeth are in their proper positions after surgery.

Who needs surgical orthodontics?

Whenever possible, our orthodontists will avoid surgery for patients, but will consider it for non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial aesthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16 for girls and 18 for boys.

All growth must be completed before jaw surgery can be performed. However, the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.

How does it work?

During the orthodontic treatment, which usually lasts six to 18 months, the patient wears braces and will visit us for scheduled adjustments. As the teeth move with the braces, the patient may think his or her bite is getting worse rather than better. However, when the jaws are placed into proper alignment during orthognathic surgery, then the teeth will fit into their proper positions.

Surgery is performed in the hospital with an oral surgeon, and can take several hours, depending on the amount and type of surgery needed. In lower jaw surgery, the jawbone behind the teeth is separated and the tooth-bearing portion is moved forward or backward, as needed.

In upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be repositioned forward or backward, or it can be raised or lowered. Certain movements may require the jaws to be separated, with bone added or removed to achieve the proper alignment and stability. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment may also be repositioned or augmented.

When a person has completed surgery, he or she should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time (about four to eight weeks), your orthodontist “fine-tunes” the bite. In most cases, braces are removed within six to 12 months following surgery. After braces are removed, the patient will wear a retainer to maintain that beautiful new smile.

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