Jaw surgery is used to correct structural defects of the jaw. It is also used to facilitate better chewing, speaking and breathing.
Misalignment of the jaw and/or teeth could either be congenital or acquired due to an injury or bone disorders. A myriad of problems ranging from malocclusion leading to abnormal bites (overbite, underbite, crossbite and open bite) to difficulty in chewing, speaking or breathing may result from deformities of the upper or lower jaw. This may even become a cause of cosmetic concern. Corrective jaw surgery, also called orthognathic surgery, is a viable option that can be used to correct the alignment of the jaw, teeth, face or chin, to enhance the appearance and address problems that may arise due to such defects. Such a surgery is performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Types of Orthognathic Surgeries
There are different types of corrective jaw and TMJ surgeries that may be recommended depending upon the condition and the misalignment of the jaw. These are:
Upper Jaw Surgery (Maxillary Osteotomy)
This surgery is recommended for those who have a receded upper jaw or an open bite (apertognathia). If the surgery is performed on a person with a receded upper jaw, the surgeon makes a cut below the eye sockets and adjusts the entire upper jaw, which includes the roof of the mouth and upper teeth as one unit. The teeth and the jaw are moved till the upper and lower teeth come on top of each other and fit together properly. If the person has an open bite, then the extra part of the bone from the upper bearing portion of the jaw is removed. After this open bite surgery, the jaw is realigned with plates and thin screws.
Lower Jaw Surgery (Mandibular Osteotomy)
This surgery is recommended for those who have a receded lower jaw. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts the bone from the rear portion of the jaw i.e. behind the molars and moves the whole lower jaw a bit backwards to align it with the upper jaw. Screws are used to hold the jaw bones. Any correction done in the lower jaw can also be termed as underbite correction, which may include minor to major surgeries.
Chin Surgery (Genioplasty)
This surgery is performed on people who have a deficient chin. A part from the lower jaw is separated, extended and modified in such a way that upper teeth settle on the lower teeth. This helps to modify the position of the chin.
Steps in Orthognathic Surgery
Once you have decided to undergo jaw surgery, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will conduct a detailed examination to ascertain the nature of the deformity so as to decide the right procedure for the surgery. Follow-up visits will be required thereafter.
- Initially, the surgeon will try to adjust your teeth by making you wear braces. This may even start 6 months prior to the surgery so as to prepare your teeth for new settlement. The surgeon may even recommend the removal of wisdom teeth so that the surgery may be easy to perform.
- Few days before the surgery, the surgeon will discuss the whole procedure. The doctor may even prepare a model of your jaw to explain the procedure.
- The surgery will start with administration of general anesthesia. More often than not, the surgery is conducted from the inner part of the mouth, to avoid scarring on the skin. The recovery time will depend upon the type of surgery and the condition of the patient. It may vary from patient to patient.
- After the surgery, the doctor may advise you to stay on a liquid diet.
Risks and After-effects of the Surgery
As with every surgery, risks are associated with jaw surgery as well. These are some of the associated risks and complications.
- Sinus complications, injury to adjacent teeth, jaw joint pain, infection, etc.
- Minor bleeding can be observed from nose and mouth. If you suffer from excess bleeding, seek medical help immediately.
- Post-operative pain can be controlled with the help of pain killers and injections.
- Swelling may be observed but will gradually decrease with time.
- Nausea and vomiting are common anesthesia-related effects.
- Patient may observe numbness or a tingling sensation in the face, jaw, teeth and tongue. Numbness usually lasts for 1 or 2 weeks, but sometimes this sensation may last for more than 6 months.
Who All Need Corrective Jaw Surgery
Orthognathic surgery may benefit people who suffer from maxillary (upper jaw) as well as mandibular (lower jaw) deformities. Following are some of the conditions which require jaw surgery.
- People who face difficulty in chewing, biting or swallowing food.
- When the upper and the lower lip do not meet due to an overdeveloped upper jaw.
- People who have receding chin and a protruding jaw.
- People with congenital jaw defects
- People who have developed a jaw defect after any facial injury.
- People who suffer from chronic mouth breathing and dry mouth because of a jaw disorder. This may also cause sleep apnea or snoring.
- Jaw pain, headache, excessive wearing of teeth.
- Defects in facial appearance due to misalignment of jaw.
- Some people have spaces between their upper and lower teeth even when the mouth is closed. This is known as an open bite.
If you are suffering from any of the aforementioned jaw defects, consult an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to know if you are a suitable candidate for this surgery. The surgery cost may vary according to the severity of the deformity, nature of the surgery, location of the clinic and the surgeon’s fee (which may depend on his experience). This surgery is undoubtedly helpful in correcting structural defects of the jaw.