Surgical orthodontics, also known as orthognathic surgery, is performed to alleviate severe bite problems or facial esthetic concerns that cannot be fully corrected with braces alone. It is performed in cooperation with your orthodontist, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and your family dentist. If indicated, this surgery may improve your chewing, breathing and speech capabilities, and facial appearance.
How does surgical orthodontics work?
A patient wears braces until the teeth are in the correct position for surgery. As the braces move the teeth, it may feel as though the bite is getting worse, rather than improving. However, once orthognathic surgery repositions the jaws, the teeth will properly fit into a good bite. Orthognathic surgery is performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in a hospital.
Lower jaw surgery requires separating the jawbone behind the teeth and moving the tooth-bearing portion of the jawbone backward or forward as needed. In upper jaw surgery, the jaw can be lowered, raised, expanded or repositioned backward or forward. Certain movements may require the jaws to be separated, with bone added or removed to achieve proper alignment and stability. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment may also be augmented or repositioned.
It will take one to two weeks to return to school or work after surgery, and six to eight weeks for the jaws to completely heal. After that, your doctor will continue to adjust your braces until your bite correction is ideal. Braces are usually removed within six to twelve months after surgery. Once the braces are removed, a retainer is worn to maintain proper alignment.