Jaws provide a lot of the structure and aesthetics of the face. If the upper and lower jaw are not aligned properly, the chin may appear as though it is too big (protruding) or too small (weak chin). The same may be true for the upper jaw but not as easily noticeable to the untrained observer. In addition, this misalignment can also affect how you chew, communicate, and, most importantly, breathe. Corrective jaw surgery can move these bones to create a more harmonious relationship that serves as both a cosmetic and functional improvement.
What is Corrective Jaw Surgery?
During corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, the doctor will physically reposition the upper or lower jawbone and secure them in place using metal plates and screws. This hardware holds the jaws in the desired position and allows for eventual bone healing Typically the plates and screws are not removed and integrate with the existing bone for lasting results. Whenever possible, all of the incisions are made on the inside of your mouth so that there are no visible scars.
Sometimes orthognathic surgery is used in conjunction with orthodontics, such as braces or Invisalign®, to provide the best possible position of your teeth and supporting bone. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon and orthodontist may work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. When orthodontic treatment is used in conjunction with orthognathic surgery, typically the orthodontist has to start treatment a few months before surgery and continue for several months after surgery.
When is Surgery Needed?
There are many reasons why corrective jaw surgery may be recommended. Some of them are aesthetic, while most are functional in nature. Not only can surgery optimize tooth positioning, but it can also help the airway, which is a critical part of overall health and well-being.
Some common reasons for corrective jaw surgery include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSAS)
- Protruding or retracted upper jaw
- Protruding or retracted lower jaw and/or chin
- Asymmetry in facial appearance
- All teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed (open bite)
- Lips do not meet when the mouth is closed (lip incompetence)
- Uneven or excessive wear on the teeth
- Temporomandibular joint discomfort (TMJ)
Oftentimes these issues can be resolved with corrective jaw surgery, including breathing problems. Many patients find that they no longer require the use of a CPAP machine after surgery and have more energy upon waking in the morning.
Because the teeth and jaw continue to shift and change during development, the doctor will want to make sure you are finished growing before considering surgery. Typically growth is observed or monitored through the radiographic images obtained in our office.
Types of Corrective Jaw Surgery
There are four types of orthognathic surgery that can be used depending on the situation and goals. They include:
- Maxillary Osteotomy: Moving the upper jaw position only
- Mandibular Osteotomy: Moving the lower jaw position only
- Bimaxillary Osteotomy: Moving both jaws to improve alignment and facial harmony
- Genioplasty: Moving the chin to a more harmonious position
Ask your oral and maxillofacial surgeon to see before and after pictures from patients they have helped so you can see real-life results. This can give you a better idea of what types of changes are possible and how others with similar issues benefitted from surgery. With advances in digital technology, we are able to show you an image of what you could look like when surgery is finished. You can see for yourself how the changes may affect your appearance.
How is Corrective Jaw Surgery Performed?
Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will obtain several radiographs to get a clear image of your current jaw structure and positioning. This allows them to see exactly where they will need to cut the bone, how to position and affix it, and if there are any other issues they need to consider.
Once physical measurements, radiographs, and images are obtained, the doctor will create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs, desires, and goals. This may or may not include some orthodontic work before and after surgery, which will be discussed in detail with your orthodontist.
When it is time for surgery, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will complete the surgery in the hospital operating room under general anesthesia with a dedicated and specialized team. Typically only one night is required in the hospital and we never plan to wire your teeth together, which is previously very common practice for some surgeons.
During corrective jaw surgery, specialized instruments are used to cut the jaw bone so that it is separated from the cranial base and can be moved freely into the desired finalized position. The final desired orientation of the jaws is such that your teeth and jaw are properly aligned with the rest of your face, creating a more harmonious aesthetic and function position. Titanium plates and screws are used to fixate everything into the final position which helps the bones align into a stable position and allow the bones to heal properly.
What is the Recovery Process Like?
Typically, patients go home after staying one night in the hospital. This allows our team to make sure that everything is well controlled, and you can properly care for yourself until the follow-up appointment in one week. It is common to have temporary swelling and neurosensory changes due to the nature of the surgery. This swelling should start to subside within a few days but take a few weeks before it is mostly resolved.
At the beginning of your recovery, you will be on a liquid or soft/non-chewy food diet to minimize any pressure on your jaws and teeth. Gradually you can return to a more normal diet as the bones heal. You should also avoid any strenuous activity for a few weeks.
Does Surgery Hurt?
Your experience will be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. You will be under general anesthesia during the procedure, which means you will be “asleep” the whole time and will not feel anything. We typically like to use longer-lasting local anesthetics at the end of the case to help keep you comfortable in the early recovery period. Once the surgery is over, our team will make certain that any discomfort you may have is completely understood and effectively managed.
How Can Corrective Jaw Surgery Help with Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Patients who are habitual mouth breathers, snore, or use a CPAP machine at night will very likely find that the difference is remarkable after corrective jaw surgery. By moving the jaws and subsequently altering the soft tissue profile, it can significantly improve airflow and breathing, very often eliminating the need for assistive breathing devices. Most obstruction issues are from the base of the tongue falling back into the airway as our muscles relax and lose tone. Advancement of the lower jaw and chin will pull the tongue more forward and keep an increased tone while you sleep, thus allowing a larger area of space to pass behind the tongue.
Most patients do not even realize that their breathing is an issue. They may think that feeling tired and not sleeping well is simply part of aging. If your oral and maxillofacial surgeon notices some of the common signs of jaw deformities or sleep issues, they may recommend you complete the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to assess your daytime sleepiness. This can help to identify unknown issues and restore optimal breathing while sleeping.
How Much Does Corrective Jaw Surgery Cost?
The cost of surgery will vary from patient to patient, depending on their individual situation. Some factors that can influence pricing include:
- The complexity of the surgery
- Costs associated with the facility
- Costs associated with anesthesia
- Any additional procedures that are necessary
- Exclusion criteria on your current insurance policy
After your consultation, your doctor will have a better idea of the type and extent of corrective jaw surgery needed and can give you a more accurate quote in regard to pricing.
Are There Risks Associated with Corrective Jaw Surgery?
There are potential risks with any surgery, big or small. Overall, corrective jaw (orthognathic) surgery is considered relatively safe. Your doctor will take precautions to reduce the risk of injury or infection to the sites and ensure that everything is in proper alignment and fixated correctly before closing the incisions. You may experience some temporary numbness around your mouth which often goes away on its own as the nerves recover from surgery.
Many patients find that the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks and most wish that they had completed the surgery sooner in life. Patients benefit from the improvements in eating, speaking, breathing, and find relief from some TMJ issues. Besides the functional improvement, many absolutely love the improvements in facial aesthetics and harmony. You may feel more comfortable within your own skin and not as self-conscious about any facial imbalances, abnormalities, or assymetries.
Addressing Jaw and Facial Issues with Corrective Jaw Surgery
You do not have to simply make the best of jaw problems and live with discomfort or concerns about your facial appearance. There are options for correcting issues and bringing you relief. The doctors at Lighthouse Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Houston and Katy, Texas have extensive experience performing corrective jaw surgery to address a wide range of problems.
From very complex surgeries to routine procedures, we strive to provide you with the solutions you seek.
If you live in the Houston area, schedule a consultation today to discuss your concerns and goals, and learn more about how corrective jaw surgery may be able to help you. Call us at (713) 790-1995.