What is Orthognathic Surgery?
Orthognathic surgery is the method of treatment when braces alone cannot correct your specific skeletal problem. Sometimes due to the underlying skeletal discrepancy, simple orthodontics cannot accomplish what is needed for fixing your bite and facial esthetics for long-term dental health.
Usually orthognathic surgery cannot be performed until growth has ceased. Sometimes orthognathic surgery can be eliminated by growth modifications during adolescent growth with orthodontics, but for adults, that is not an option.
Who needs surgical orthodontics?
Your orthodontist will consider surgical orthodontic treatment for non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial esthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16 for girls and 18 for boys. All growth must be completed before jaw surgery can be performed. However the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.
How does it 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 to 12 months following surgery. After your braces are removed, you will wear a retainer to maintain your beautiful new smile.