What does surgical orthodontics mean?
Surgical Orthodontics (or Orthognathic Surgery) typically refers to the process of correcting irregularities in someone’s jaw surgically. By repositioning someone’s jaw this can move teeth as well as ensure that teeth are in their proper positions after the surgery has been completed. A surgical orthodontic procedure may make it easier for a patient to chew, breathe and speak. Generally, this option is used with braces to properly straighten teeth before and after the jaw surgery.
Who is a good candidate for surgical orthodontics?
An orthodontist will consider this type of treatment for adult patients who have fully formed bites. Jaw growth can generally be manipulated with the help of orthodontic appliances before the age of 16 for women and 18 for men. Because most adults have a fully formed jaw by the time they reached this age of development this is the time where orthodontic surgery may be required in order to make corrections.
How does the procedure work?
During your orthodontic treatment which usually lasts 6–18 months you wear braces and will visit your orthodontist for scheduled adjustments to your braces. As your teeth move with the braces you may think that your bite is getting worse rather than better. However, when your jaws are placed into proper alignment during orthognathic surgery the teeth will then fit into their proper positions.
Surgery is performed in the hospital with an oral surgeon and can take several hours depending on the amount and type of surgery needed. In lower jaw surgery the jawbone behind the teeth is separated and the tooth-bearing portion is moved forward or backward as needed. In upper jaw surgery the jaw can be repositioned forward or backward or the jaw can be raised or lowered. Certain movements may require the jaws to be separated with bone added/removed to achieve the proper alignment and stability. Other facial bones that contribute to alignment may also be repositioned or augmented.
When you have completed surgery you should be able to return to school or work within two weeks. After the necessary healing time (about 4–8 weeks), your orthodontist “fine-tunes” your bite. In most cases braces are removed within 6–12 months following surgery. After your braces are removed you will wear a retainer to maintain your beautiful new smile.