When you discuss you treatment options with your dentist, you might find that they advise that the best course of action would be a combination of orthodontics and jaw surgery (known as orthognathic surgery).
Whilst the thought of jaw surgery can be somewhat overwhelming, it’s important to remember that this is a common procedure that many people undergo each and every year on their quest to achieve the perfect smile.
Why might I need orthognathic jaw surgery?
If your jaw bones are not in the correct position, it may not be possible to correct your bite or the position of your teeth with orthodontics alone and surgery may be required to move your jaw into the correct position.
What are the benefits of orthognathic surgery?
Jaw surgery can bring with it a whole host of benefits. Not only can it enhance the functionality of your teeth and your ability to bite and chew, but it can also enhance the appearance of the teeth and even your face as a whole!
What does jaw surgery involve?
Whilst your orthognathic surgery depends very much upon your individual case, the process usually involves three main stages…
Stage 1 – Pre-surgical orthodontic treatment
During this initial stage of treatment, orthodontic braces are fixed to the teeth in order to move them into a position that will allow the upper and lower teeth to fit together properly after surgery. The pre-surgical stage usually takes around 18 months to complete.
Stage 2 – Orthognathic Surgery Treatment
Once your pre-surgery treatment is complete, you will then undergo the operation itself. The surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic and involves a control break of the upper or lower jaw, or both, depending upon the specific problems you have with your bite. The fragments of jaw are then moved into the correct position and secured in place using bone plates and screws.
The patient is usually admitted as an in-patient and will stay in hospital for between 1 and 3 days after the operation.
Stage 3 – Post-surgical orthodontic treatment
After the operation, you will probably need to go through a post-surgical orthodontic treatment in order to achieve the best possible fit of the teeth together. This treatment usually lasts around 6 months.
What type of braces will I need?
Prior to the operation, you will typically need to wear fixed braces as these will allow your dentist to accurately position your teeth. The braces will also remain in place during the operation, to help the surgeon to position the jaw correctly, and for a number of months afterwards to fine tune your bite.
Are there any risks involved?
Orthognathic Jaw surgery is a common and typically straight forward procedure, and there are usually very few risks involved.
There are, however, a number of potential complications, which your dentist will discuss with you prior to the surgery. These include:
- Nerve damage – After the operation, it’s relatively common to experience numbness of your chin, tongue, and gums. This is caused by the bruising of some of the nerves in the jaw.
- Tooth damage – If you do not keep up with your strict oral hygiene regime during your treatment, or you consume too many sugary or acidic drinks, the surface of your teeth can become damaged.
- Relapse – Although it is rare, the teeth and jaws can move back to their original position after the treatment. A retainer brace will minimise the risk of this occurring.
Will I be able to eat normally during my orthodontic and orthognathic treatment?
You should be able to continue to eat and drink as normal up until the operation. After the operation, you will need to try and maintain a more liquid-based diet for the first couple of weeks.
Of course, although you can eat normally prior to the operation, to enjoy the best possible results from your treatment, you should avoid certain foods and drinks, such as toffees, boiled sweets, fizzy drinks, and fruit juice.
Will I look different after my jaw surgery?
Due to the nature of the surgery, you will almost certainly look different to some extent. However, it will very much depend on how much the jaw is moved.
Will I experience any after effects?
After the operation, you will experience some swelling and bruising. This should subside over the first 2 to 3 weeks.
If your operation was on your lower jaw, you may also experience some numbness in your lower lip for a couple of weeks, or even months, after the operation.
As with any operation, you will need to take it easy for a week or two after your orthognathic surgery operation and you will also need to take some time off work.