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Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, corrects jaw problems and related conditions.
Most people undergo jaw surgery to treat conditions that can’t be treated with orthodontics alone. Many people wear braces before jaw surgery and afterwards during recovery.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform jaw surgeries. They may also collaborate with an orthodontist during the course of the treatment.
If someone undergoes surgery on the upper and lower jaws at the same time, the surgery is called bimaxillary osteotomy, or double jaw surgery.
Someone may require jaw surgery for several reasons. You may undergo corrective jaw surgery to:
Most people undergo jaw surgery after their skeletal growth stops, which is around 14 to 16 years of age for females and 17 to 21 for males.
Below is the timeline for what to expect before, during, and after double jaw surgery:
Most people need to wear braces for 12 to 18 months before surgery. Wearing braces will help align and level out your teeth.
Getting temporary orthodontic anchorage devices can help move your teeth quicker and reduce how long you need to wear braces. If your teeth don’t fit together properly, you may need to get crowns or have your teeth reshaped before surgery.
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will work with your orthodontist. They will often take X-rays, models, and pictures of your teeth to help formulate your surgery plan.
Before jaw surgery, a medical professional will administer general anesthesia to you. This means you won’t be awake or feel anything during the procedure. Most jaw surgeries take place in a hospital.
During double jaw surgery, a surgeon will work on both the upper jaw and lower jaw.
Jaw surgery is often done inside the mouth so there aren’t scars on the outside of your jaw, chin, or mouth. A surgeon may need to make minor cuts outside the mouth in some cases.
During the procedure, your surgeon cuts into the jawbones and then physically moves them.
After moving the jaw bones into the new position, the surgeon uses small screws, wires, rubber bands, and bone plates to secure the bones into their new position. Over time, these screws become part of the bone structure.
Some people may also have extra pieces of bone added to their jaws. This extra bone is often taken from the hip, rib, or leg and secured with screws and plates. The surgeon may also remove or shave away excess bone if you have an open bite.
During jaw surgery, your surgeon may use virtual surgical planning, which allows for a computer generated surgical plan and customized instruments.
Many people spend 2 to 4 days in the hospital after their surgery. It usually takes around 6 weeks for your jaw to heal after surgery. But the full healing process or recovery time may take as long as 12 weeks.
In the days to weeks following double jaw surgery you will likely experience:
Depending on the severity of your surgery, it might also take some time to adjust to how your face looks.
Your doctor may advise you to stick to a soft food or liquid diet while you’re healing. If you do, you may need to take nutritional supplements.
Your surgeon or orthodontist will give you special instructions on how to take care of yourself while you recover. These instructions often include:
Your doctor will also tell you to:
Around 6 weeks after jaw surgery, your orthodontist will place braces on your teeth to keep them in alignment. You might need to wear braces for 6 to 9 months.
Once your braces are removed, you will need to wear retainers indefinitely to keep your teeth in their new position. In total, it can take several years to fully fix your jaw or teeth alignment problems.
As with any surgery, there are potential benefits and risks associated with jaw surgery.
If your surgery and recovery go well, you should:
Jaw surgery is typically safe if done by an experienced surgeon. With all surgeries, there are risks and potential complications, such as:
The cost of double jaw surgery depends largely on the type or extent of the surgery. By some estimates, it often costs between $20,000 to $40,000. This price usually includes consultations before surgery, the cost of the actual surgery, and follow-up care.
If you have a medical need for jaw surgery, your health insurance may partially or totally cover it.
Alternative Treatment Options
In some cases, certain treatments or devices may eliminate the need for jaw surgery.
Alternative treatment options for jaw and teeth alignment problems include:
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