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Jaw Surgery: Types of Surgeries, Costs & Recovery

Alyssa Hill Headshot
Written by
Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Lara Coseo
4 Sources Cited

What Is Jaw (Orthognathic) Surgery?

Your jaw has two parts: the upper jaw (maxilla) and the lower jaw (mandible).

Jaws often become misaligned during childhood, which can result in crooked teeth and an 'off bite.'

Orthognathic surgery, also called corrective jaw surgery, may be necessary if the jaws are severely misaligned.

Children might undergo orthodontic treatment before and/or after jaw surgery. This depends on the type of jaw misalignment they have.

Who Needs Jaw Surgery?

Jaw irregularities are usually genetic. They can also be influenced by childhood habits like thumb sucking and mouth breathing.

Some examples of bite issues that may require surgery include:

  • Overbite — when the upper jaw severely protrudes over the lower jaw
  • Underbite — when the lower jaw protrudes too far forward
  • Open Bite — when the upper and lower teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed

Other indicators for jaw surgery include:

  • Other bite problems that cause jaw misalignment
  • A lower chin and receding jaw
  • Chronic jaw joint pain (TMJ)
  • Severe headaches associated with jaw pain
  • Chronic mouth breathing and dry mouth
  • Obstructive sleep apnea or mouth breathing
  • Facial injuries
  • Difficulties biting, chewing, or swallowing
  • Not being able to close your lips without straining them
  • Certain birth defects like cleft palate
  • Facial symmetry problems

Who are the Best Candidates for Jaw Surgery?

Children are typically the best candidates for surgery because their jaws aren't fully developed. Caught early, jaw discrepancies might be fixable with just orthodontic treatment.

Once the jaw fully develops in adulthood, treatment options for severe misalignment are limited. An orthodontist may recommend jaw surgery at this stage.

5 Types of Jaw Surgery

There are a few types of jaw surgery available, depending on the severity of misalignment and jaw positioning:

  • Maxillary osteotomy
  • Mandibular osteotomy
  • Genioplasty
  • Arthroplasty
  • Arthrocentesis

1. Maxillary Osteotomy (Upper Jaw Surgery)

Maxillary osteotomy surgery corrects a severely receded upper jaw. During the procedure, an oral surgeon makes an incision in the gums above the teeth in the upper jaw.

The surgeon cuts, breaks, and moves the upper jaw into the correct position.

Then they attach a small plastic wafer to the teeth to help align the upper jaw. The jaw is fixed in place with titanium screws and metal plates.

Upper jaw surgery can correct an overbite, crossbite, and open bite.

2. Mandibular Osteotomy (Lower Jaw)

Mandibular osteotomy surgery, or lower jaw surgery, corrects a severely receded lower jaw. It's commonly used to fix an underbite.

During the procedure, an oral surgeon moves the lower jawbone forward or backward, depending on the patient’s bite alignment.

3. Genioplasty (Chin Surgery)

Genioplasties correct severely receded lower jaws. The chin is also restructured.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Surgeries

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) causes severe pain in the jaw and muscles that control jaw movement.

An arthroplasty or arthrocentesis surgery may be used to correct TMD:

4. Arthroplasty

The most common operation to correct temporomandibular joint dysfunction is an open-joint arthroplasty (keyhole surgery).

An arthroscope (small camera) is inserted into a small incision in front of the ear. Then scar tissue surrounding the joint is removed to relieve pain.

5. Arthrocentesis

Arthrocentesis uses sterile fluid to wash out the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).

During the procedure, an oral surgeon repositions the jaw, realigns the cartilage disc, and administers a steroid drug into the joint.

The goal is to return the cartilage disc to its correct position and remove any debris inside the joint.

How Much Does Jaw Surgery Cost?

The cost of jaw surgery ranges from $20,000 to $40,000.

Surgery to correct temporomandibular joint dysfunction can cost up to $50,000.

Does Insurance Cover Jaw Surgery?

Orthognathic surgery may be covered by health insurance.

Some insurance companies like Aetna consider them medically necessary when the skeletal irregularities cause:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Other breathing issues
  • Severe speech impediments
  • Pain or discomfort

Jaw surgery is considered cosmetic if it's elective and only improves your facial appearance.

Risks of Jaw Surgery

Jaw surgery is generally safe. But all invasive surgeries come with risks.

Some possible jaw surgery complications include:

  • Relapse
  • Excessive bleeding during or after surgery
  • Jaw fracture
  • Nerve damage
  • Poor bite after surgery
  • Recurring jaw pain
  • Allergic reaction to general anesthesia
  • Surgical site infection

Jaw Surgery Recovery & Aftercare

After the surgery, most people can return home the following day. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the bones to fully heal.

The recovery timeline for jaw surgery is as follows:

  • For the first two to three weeks after surgery, you may feel some discomfort and soreness. This is completely normal.
  • The swelling should diminish after about 3 weeks. In some cases, swelling doesn’t disappear for several months.
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep, drink a lot of water, and follow your surgeon's aftercare instructions.
  • Your maxillofacial surgeon may prescribe simple painkillers and antibiotics after you leave the hospital.

Does Jaw Surgery Hurt?

General anesthesia is administered before the procedure. This ensures you won't feel anything during the operation.

After you wake up, your upper lip, gums, and jaw will be numb for a few hours. You also can't drive a car for 48 hours post-op.

Some people experience numbness for months following surgery. This is because an oral surgeon cuts the nerves during the procedure, which requires time to re-grow.

What To Eat After Jaw Surgery

For the first few weeks after surgery, your diet should consist of soft foods only. This includes soup, smoothies, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs.

You can eat normally once your jaw heals completely. Your surgeon will let you know when it's time.

Risks of Untreated Jaw Misalignment

If your dentist recommends jaw surgery, it's essential to follow their instruction.

Untreated overbites, underbites, and other jaw misalignments can cause:

Last updated on April 18, 2022
4 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 18, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Jaw Surgery.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Jan. 2018.
  2. Khechoyan, David. “Orthognathic Surgery: General Considerations.” Seminars in Plastic Surgery, vol. 27, no. 03, 2013, pp. 133–136., doi:10.1055/s-0033-1357109.
  3. TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders).” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. Kim, Young-Kyun. “Complications Associated with Orthognathic Surgery.” Journal of the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, The Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, Feb. 2017.
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