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Orthognathic Surgery

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What is Orthognathic Surgery?

Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery is a facial surgical procedure that changes the position of the jaw. It is intended to correct deformities of the jaw, which affect appearance, health and functionality. Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery works to straighten jaws the same way Orthodontic Surgery works to straighten teeth.

On average, the Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery is also combined with an orthodontic treatment, because moving the jaws also moves the teeth. The orthodontic treatment is used after surgery, in order to rearrange teeth, for optimal alignment of the teeth and the bite.

Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery is best for people who present an improper bite or whose jaws are incorrectly positioned. Jaw imbalance might be caused by the fact that upper and lower jaws sometimes grow differently.

When is Orthognathic Surgery necessary?

Most common facial imbalances that can be improved with Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery are:

  • - Large jaws/chins
  • - Small jaws/chins
  • - Receding chin
  • - Unbalanced facial appearance
  • - Chronic jaw pain
  • - Open bite, teeth that don’t fit together
  • - Difficulties when chewing, biting food or even swallowing
  • - Speech problems
  • - Flat cheekbones
  • - Injury and birth defects affecting the jaw
  • - Excessive wearing of teeth

In some cases, only a specialist is able to recognize these problems. An evaluation should be carefully made by an orthodontist or an oral maxillofacial surgeon, in order to determine if a surgical repositioning of Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery is needed.

Usually the Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery treatment involves three professionals, such as oral and maxillofacial surgeons and also an orthodontist.
In some cases, the orthodontist will start aligning the teeth with braces. After the teeth are in the correct position, the Orthognathic surgeon will realign the jaws.

This might be done even while the patient uses the braces.

How is Orthognathic Surgery performed?

Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery procedure usually takes from 3 to 4 hours, under general anesthesia. Both jaws can be operated during the same surgery (Bi-maxillary osteotomy) or just one at a time (osteotomy). Incisions will be made inside the mouth, in order to expose the bone of the mandible (lower jaw) and maxilla (upper jaw).

The Orthognathic surgeon will then cut the bone of the jaw(s), remove or even add part of the bone structure until he reached the optimal position for the jaws. After the completion of the re-alignment of the jawbones, the Orthognathic surgeon will re-attach the jaws with the help of wires, plates and screws.  

Recovery from Orthognathic Surgery

Hospital stay usually takes from one to three days. During the first week following the Orthognathic procedure, special care should be taken. Patients should maintain an all-liquid diet during the first days following the Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery and go slowly introducing soft food before hard food.

Following the diet correctly helps the healing process. Pain medication and prophylactic antibiotics will also be prescribed. Reactions such as facial discoloration and swelling are expected. Hard exercising should not be practiced before a month following the Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery.

Depending on the extent of the surgery; the healing process might take from a few weeks to up to a year. Swelling usually disappears during the first few weeks after the Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery; however, some swelling might also remain a few months later. On average, Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery recovery is faster than recovery from an extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth.

Expected Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery results include a more balanced appearance and enhancement of speech and health. Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery also provides an improvement in biting and chewing.

The surgeon will accompany the healing process in order to make sure changes remain at the same place and also to check if there is any infection

Expected Results from Orthognathic Surgery

Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery moves your teeth and jaws into a new position that is more balanced, functional and healthy.  Not only should you be able to bite and chew better than ever before, but your appearance and speech may be enhanced, as well.  The results of Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery can have a dramatic and positive effect on many aspects of your life.

What else you should know

Not treating facial imbalances influences health and appearance. Problems such as difficulties to bite, chewing, keeping the lips closed together and even speaking difficulties might appear when facial imbalances are not treated. Dental health, also including gums and the jaw joint (TMJ) can also be subject to risk.

The reason for most people electing to correct facial imbalances through Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery is the fact that it also improves appearance, making face look more balanced. Orthognathic surgery or corrective jaw surgery also enlarges the airway, in case of sleep apnea.

Just like other surgeries, there are some risks. Make sure to ask your surgeon everything you would like to know and share with him all your feelings and fears. Possible risks of Orthognathic Surgery include bleeding, swelling, infection, nausea and also vomiting. Some patients also present numbness in the face, which is caused by nerve damage.

In most cases, this symptom is temporary; however, rarely it could be permanent. In case of repositioning the upper jaw, the appearance of the patient's nose might be altered. This alteration usually leads to a more positive appearance in the balance of the patient's face In some cases, such as maxillary osteotomy, root canal treatments might also be necessary.

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